Thursday 17 October 1991

Remarks by ministry solicitor


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)

Mammoliti, George (Yorkview NDP)

Marchese, Rosario (Fort York NDP)

Murdoch, Bill (Grey PC)

O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa-Rideau L)

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

Turnbull, David (York Mills PC)


McClelland, Carman (Brampton North L) for Mr Scott

McGuinty, Dalton (Ottawa South L) for Mr Scott

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel) for Mr B. Murdoch

Also taking part: Villeneuve, Noble (S-D-G & East Grenville)

Clerk: Deller, Deborah

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

The committee met at 1008 in room 151.


The Chair: As was outlined in the notices all members received yesterday, the meeting has been called by me at the request of the Progressive Conservative caucus, which has a number of issues it wishes to bring forward to the committee.

Concurrent with the request, I received a number of faxed documents, dated October 15, from the Coalition Against the Closing of the Registry Offices. I received a second set of faxed documents and one very lengthy letter of more than four pages dated October 16 and signed by Guildford W. Deverell. I have made those available to every member of the committee this morning, which was the first opportunity to do so.

I believe Mr Tilson would like to address the committee.

Mr Tilson: Thank you, Mr Chair. The reason I requested that you convene this meeting was as a result of the comments made by the Speaker of this House in response to my rising in the House on a question of personal privilege. The gist of his response was that this committee was dealing with the matter. I think he said that in response to the fact that you had ordered a transcript of the court proceeding. I inquired of the clerk of the committee whether a transcript was indeed available, whether it was forthcoming, and I was informed that a transcript was not available. It therefore seemed to me that if a transcript was not available we should probably wait until it is, which could be some time.

Since a transcript is not available, and since the integrity of the entire committee process is being challenged by a solicitor representing or acting on behalf of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations -- I assume she is retained by the Attorney General's department -- and since allegations have been submitted, this committee should deal with these matters forthwith.

Aside from my personal rights as a question of privilege, which I can raise in the committee and which I am indeed raising, I am surprised that members of the government side of the committee, with the exception of Mr Drainville, are not more concerned with the allegations that have been made. So far the only facts I have presented to this committee are letters from solicitor Deverell and solicitor Fallis, which you now have before you.

Upon hearing that there was no transcript available, I telephoned the reporter, Tom Claridge, to hear his side of it. He repeated to me that it was his impression that solicitor Haberman made a comment that if a report from committee were to go against government policy, the government side of that committee would never allow it to go to the House. He informed me that at the break, after these submissions were made, he approached the solicitor and asked: "What if a government member were in a riding where a registry office was being closed. Would that member join with the committee members and speak out against the position that was being taken by the minority side of the committee?" Her answer was simply a smile. In other words, the implication was made clear to him, again reiterating her position, that the government side of a committee would never under any circumstances allow a committee report to be made to the House which would go against government policy.

Ms Harrington: Mr Chair, on a point of order: Certainly what Mr Tilson is saying is a repetition of what we heard last week. It is obviously a personal opinion of someone who is a solicitor and it is up to us to check into that. I feel that we, as a government, should. But it is very clearly a personal opinion, what this person thinks. Those kinds of opinions are given around this table and everywhere else very often. I do not understand at this point why we are here today. Would you please make it clear, Mr Tilson, why we are here today?

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, if you will give me a chance, I will proceed with that. That is exactly what I am attempting to do. I have gone further than I did when I last appeared at this committee, which was simply to read points that were made in two solicitors' letters. You now have those letters.

Ms Harrington: Certainly we needed them yesterday if we were to be able to read them by this time. That is clear.

Mr Tilson: I will deal with that, if you wish, as well.

Mr Marchese: Please do.

Mr Tilson: Which issue do you wish me to proceed with, Mr Chair?

Mr Mammoliti: Stop wasting time and deal with them.

The Chair: Order, please.

Mr Tilson: We are prepared to speak on any of the issues raised by the government members, Mr Chair.

The Chair: I believe you should have the opportunity to make your case. We will then have the opportunity to hear responses to what you say.

Mr Tilson: With respect to these very serious allegations made in a court of law by a solicitor acting on behalf of the government, challenging the integrity of this committee, challenging the fact as to why members of the public should even come to our public meetings to make representations on particular issues, it goes beyond section 123. It goes into every type of public hearing this Legislature ever holds.

If a committee is going to make a recommendation to the Legislature that is going to go against government policy, we have the uncontradicted fact at this time, made by a solicitor acting on behalf of the Attorney General's ministry and the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, that the whole process is a sham, that a report made by the committee, if it was going to contravene the policy of the government, may possibly not even reach the House.

These allegations have been made in these letters by solicitors. If one is saying they are lying, that is a serious allegation. But now I have added a further fact. As a result of there not being a transcript available, and that is unfortunate, I have contacted Mr Claridge, the reporter for the Globe and Mail who is reporting on that hearing. Mr Claridge reiterated the position I have just related to you.

With respect to the response by Mrs Harrington as to why we are doing this now, we are doing this now because I believe I have the right of my personal privilege to appear at the earliest opportunity, and I so requested. Why would I come to a public committee meeting when the whole process is a sham, as relayed by a solicitor acting on behalf of the government? Why would I do that? I have the right and the obligation to attend as soon as possible to make these submissions to this committee.

You, Mr Chair, have been challenged. As I indicated in my remarks last week, you have been challenged as conducting a committee that is essentially a sham. I believe this committee is obligated to pursue these very serious allegations, made not just from one source but from an independent source, the independent source being Mr Claridge, who has nothing to win or lose. He made those to me, but I think those comments should be made to this committee and this committee should determine whether or not the process is indeed a sham and whether these charges should be pursued.

If you are going to sit here and allow these allegations to remain over our head, in all honesty I will have a great deal of difficulty asking people from my constituency to attend committee hearings. I cannot believe you would not have the same feeling yourself. Why would you ask people to come to Queen's Park or to cities around this province to assist us in formulating policy? This committee spent considerable time on housing. Why would we even have the housing hearings if that is in fact the process, if that understanding is to remain?

These serious allegations must be dealt with immediately and either dispelled and proven to be false. If they are true, then what are we as a committee going to do about it? What are you as Chair going to do about it? I challenge the committee and I challenge you as Chair.


The Chair: We have a list. On the list we have Mr Drainville, Mrs Harrington and Mr Mammoliti.

Mr Drainville: There are a couple of things I want to address myself to. The first thing is the question of privilege. I believe Mr Tilson has raised this issue in the House. I believe he raised it at that time. I do not think he was given a favorable ruling in that instance, and I think to reraise the issue of privilege of a member here in this committee is not particularly acceptable. You raised it quite appropriately with the Speaker of the House. The Speaker of the House has indicated his views on the subject and I think that is where it lies.

As to the conduct of the committee being just a sham, I want to say that at the last meeting when we met together as a committee, I indicated my total agreement with Mr Tilson that for anyone to state that this committee had no significance was reprehensible and unacceptable. I think every member of this side of the committee would agree that is unacceptable.

We are in a situation in which there is no record of that being said. We also are on record as indicating that if it was said, it was totally unacceptable. To cast aspersions on everything the committee does because of that situation, no matter how ill-intentioned or uninformed the point of view put forward at that time, is to me unacceptable.

I really believe, and I say this with respect for Mr Tilson, that this is an attempt to get us into political wranglings which are absolutely not going to be to the benefit of the committee. We are putting the Chair in an untenable situation by challenging the Chair and indicating that somehow there is going to be some question as to his validity as a Chair under these circumstances. That brings us into more conflict than I think is acceptable in this committee, and I do not accept it.

Lastly, I have to challenge the honourable member for asking why he should bring someone to this committee, why we should have any hearings. As I recall, at the last meeting Mr Tilson indicated that he would have no part of these hearings if we proceeded to vote in the way we intended to vote on the issue concerning registry offices, that he would not even be here for any more 123s. I remember his words very distinctly. Perhaps he said that in the heat of the moment; I do not know. All I can say is that we are in a situation which is, I believe, politically motivated, not particularly edifying to this committee and not helpful in the process. I dissent totally from a continued wrangling over what I agree with him is an ill-advised, stupid, unacceptable remark that was made by somebody.

Ms Harrington: Mr Tilson has made his case very clear. Therefore, I think we obviously need to waste no more time on this, but I want to just make a couple of remarks.

First, with regard to this allegation against the committee, the committee process, the Chair and every one of us, I would like to point out that during our travels this summer and previous to that, many allegations were made about this committee, about who was on it, about the process. People are entitled to make whatever allegations they want. That is part of their right, is it not, to free speech, to come here to this committee and say whatever they want to say? That has been extremely helpful. For instance, many amendments are being made on rent control because of the input made to this committee. Therefore, this committee obviously has a job to do and a function. This person you are talking about has a right to his opinion.

On the other point you raised, about whether this committee has ever or will ever make a report which is for or against the position of the ministry or the government, all I can say to you is that we will have to wait and see. You, or any other solicitor, or anybody else, are not going to make assumptions as to the future of this committee.

Mr Mammoliti: I want to bring up four things. The first is that this is the first time I have received a copy of this letter dated October 16. Yesterday in the House I approached both the Chair and Mr Tilson and I got the impression that Mr Tilson had received this letter prior to today.

Mr Tilson: I read it to you last week.

Mr Mammoliti: It is dated yesterday, October 16. How could you possibly have had a copy last week?

Mr Tilson: I read the letter of the solicitors last week.

Mr Mammoliti: There is a point, then. How could Mr Tilson possibly feel anything towards this committee if he did not share this letter with us last week? If he had a copy of this letter last week or if he knew of this letter last week, why did he not make this clear? Why did he not make a copy of this letter for everybody on the committee?

Mr Tilson: I read the one of October 7.

Mr Mammoliti: Why is it dated October 16?

The Chair: Can I just clarify things?

Mr Mammoliti: I am referring to the letter of October 16.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Yes, but the one we are working with is October 7.

Mr Mammoliti: I am referring to the one of October 16. This is the first time I had a copy of this.

The Chair: The letter of October 16 was sent to me on October 16. I believe you and Mr Tilson are speaking about two different letters. I said at the initiation of this committee meeting this morning that concurrent with Mr Tilson's request, I received these letters in the office. This is the first opportunity I had to make them available to the members.

Mr Mammoliti: I am referring to the one of October 16. Mr Tilson is referring to the one dated -- what is the date of that one?

The Chair: October 7.

Mr Mammoliti: There was a meeting here last Thursday. Why was this not addressed last Thursday? Why did the members of his party walk out of the committee meeting? Why did they not address it at that time? I understand they walked out of the meeting and they did not want to address anything. As far as I am concerned, today's meeting is a way of deliberately wasting our time and wasting the valuable time that I spend on Thursday mornings in my constituency with individuals who have problems.

That brings me to my next point. On behalf of the single mothers I was supposed to meet with this morning, and on behalf of the individuals who are collecting welfare and wanted my advice on particular areas, and other persons whose meetings I had to cancel, I say to Mr Tilson, these people are not very happy with you for calling this meeting. I explained the situation to them. I explained that you could have dealt with this last week and you did not and you walked out of the meeting. Now you call a meeting at the last minute.


The Chair: I feel I must take some responsibility for calling the meeting. The Chair has the prerogative to call a meeting and it has been my practice to call meetings whenever requested by anyone on the committee, and if I was not available, certainly the Vice-Chair, Mr Brown, was available to substitute for me when meetings have been requested. I understand and sympathize with Mr Mammoliti's problems with a constituency day, but Parliament sits from Monday through Thursday. I just want the record to show that the request was duly made and I followed the request, as has been my practice.

Mr Bisson: I have a point of personal privilege. Hearing what the Chair just said, I do not think it is helpful to this committee that the Chair comes down in a condescending way in explaining the procedures and when we are to be in the House, from Monday to Thursday. I think we are quite aware of what our responsibilities are here, sir.

The Chair: That is not a point of order.

Mr Bisson: It is a point of personal privilege.

Mr Mammoliti: Mr Chairman, if I may continue, my point is that as far as I am concerned, we should have had some notice. Early yesterday afternoon was the first time I heard there was going to be a meeting this morning. This is the first time I have seen this letter. It is dated October 16, yesterday. If we had received it yesterday, perhaps it would have given me a chance to read it over and contemplate what I was going to talk about today. Again, I am very upset at the fact that we did not get it yesterday.


The Chair: Order, please. I cannot hear Mr Mammoliti. We need to be able to hear the entire discussion.

Mr Mammoliti: As I said, I have four points. I have already brought up two of them -- the waste of time and the copy of the letter. The third one is the accusation by Mr Tilson that this process is a sham. Frankly, I just cannot agree with that. Actually, I take it very personally when he says the process is a sham. If it is a sham, it is the conduct of his people, the Conservative representatives who have attended here. The Liberals have certainly caused a little bit of ruckus in the past as well. Walking out on us in the middle of a vote, knowing full well that we were going to miss a plane, was absolutely ludicrous. That is a sham. Walking out last week, as far as I am concerned, was a sham. This side of the committee has never walked out.

Mr Brown: Not in this Parliament.

Mr B. Murdoch: Look at the halo over there.

Mr Tilson: Just remember all this is being recorded.

Mr Brown: Look at the wings under the jacket, George.

The Chair: Order. Mr Mammoliti has the floor.

Mr Mammoliti: When you make accusations that this is a sham, look at your own behaviour, sir.

When I hear that Mr Tilson has made phone calls to the lawyer who has made these accusations, I cannot help but think Mr Tilson is deliberately enticing these people to say these things. That is a sham, if that is happening.

Look at the behaviour of the people sitting across from us. Even at this time they are sitting there and laughing. That is a sham.


The Chair: Mr Mammoliti deserves all the courtesy we have extended to every other member.

Mr Mammoliti: When we see the clowns laughing and giggling and walking out whenever they feel like it --

The Chair: Mr Mammoliti, I want to give you as much leeway as possible, but do not call your colleagues clowns.

Mr Mammoliti: I am sorry.

The Chair: Withdraw the word "clowns," Mr Mammoliti, and we will all get along a little better.

Mr Mammoliti: Mr Tilson said this was a sham. I take personal offence at that and I think I have made my point.

Mr Chairman, even though you and I have certainly had our differences in the past -- again I echo the feelings of my colleague earlier -- my fourth point is that I would have to stick up for you when Mr Tilson says he is challenging the Chair. Even though we have not seen eye to eye on a lot of issues, I believe you are doing your best and that you have made every attempt possible to deal fairly with every crisis. I do not agree with Mr Tilson in challenging the Chair, and on that particular note --


Mr Mammoliti: I heard that he challenged the Chair. That is what I heard today.

Mr Marchese: It is a challenge to the Chair, not through the Chair.

Mr Mammoliti: It is a deliberate insult to the Chair and I do not like it one bit. Let's remember that we are supposed to be a team, ladies and gentlemen, and that we are supposed to work together in harmony. When I hear you saying this is a sham, I just cannot believe it, especially after the behaviour I have seen from all of you over the last six months. That is a sham.

The Chair: We are allowing a lot of leeway in the discussion this morning. We have already spent almost 40 minutes. I think we are going to try to wrap this up within the next 20 to 30 minutes. I have on my list Mr McClelland, Mr Marchese and Mr Brown.

Mr McClelland: I really do not know where to begin. I am not in a position to impute any motives to the comments made by Mr Tilson but, for the record, my understanding was simply that the position of Chair is challenged, not you personally. Your ability to conduct meetings that would be seen and perceived by deputants before this committee to have any efficacy or meaning is called into question when there is evidence, at least on its face, to indicate that a decision was made notwithstanding any information that may be brought to the committee. That is the salient point, and I think it has important reflections with respect to the comments made by Mr Drainville and Ms Harrington.

The issue of the validity of the committee process and whether or not it is a sham is very important. I think it important that we understand the committee has not only a responsibility but also legislative authority. A committee has the power to subpoena people. It has the power collectively to intervene in people's lives and compel them to be here. There are people who come here under compulsion and there are individuals, men and women from across this province, who come willingly. In both cases they come here with the expectation and intent that they will have a fair hearing and an opportunity to put their views before this committee as an extension of the Legislative Assembly.

The committee then reports back to 130 men and women who have a responsibility to discharge the affairs of this province. We call upon people to participate in that. When people come, they have an expectation that whatever they have to offer will at least be taken into consideration. It seems reasonable to presume, on the evidence presented, that this is called into question. That is exactly the salient point of Mr Tilson's position and it needs to be explored and canvassed.


A case has been made that the people who come here have a right to be assured, not only for themselves but for everybody who will be called before this committee and other committees of the Legislative Assembly, that they are not doing so in a futile manner and in an atmosphere that is absolutely pre-arranged. That is what is called into question.

The perception by the individuals who came here, who made a presentation in good faith and were then told after the fact that it did not matter, that the decision had been made and everything they said was irrelevant and had no impact in terms of the decision, calls into question not only the process but, by extension, each and every one of us in every committee we serve and the work we do. The very constituency work Mr Mammoliti talked about is also called into question by virtue of that. It is not only symbolic; it is very real to people who invest their time and energy and give willingly with the desire to have meaningful impact.

In terms of the process, I think it is important also to recognize why we are here. Mr Drainville, I understand your concern whether it should be before this committee. I remind you that it was the Speaker himself who dictated or directed. You suggested that the Speaker's view ought to be taken into consideration. With respect, I remind you that it was the Speaker who said this issue needed to be dealt with by this committee. In fact that is why we are here, at his behest and at his direction.

In terms of the timing and in terms of the process of what is taking place here, we are often called upon to be here at times that are inconvenient. Regrettably, that inconveniences other people in our ridings from time to time and arrangements have to be changed, and oft-times we are also required to deal with things we do not plan in advance.

The nature of our business is such that we are making decisions that impact people in a very meaningful way. I think we have to bear that in mind. With respect to you, Mr Mammoliti, whether or not you agree with Mr Tilson's position is, quite frankly, irrelevant. What is important is that the position be given full opportunity to be heard and to be dealt with in as objective a manner as possible.

More important, Mr Tilson is bringing a position that is not only his -- that is important -- but that is firmly held and firmly believed in by men and women in this province. Ultimately it is your job and mine, all of us together, to deal with that. That is why you are here and we are here. We have a job to do, and a responsibility. We have the confirmed authority to deal with that.

From time to time we have put people in a position that is very difficult for them to respond to. When we do that, we had better make absolutely sure they have every assurance that they come here with a clean slate, so to speak, that they have an opportunity to put their case here clearly and honestly, without fear of any repercussions and with the assurance that what they are doing is contributing in a meaningful way.

I recognize the difficult position you are in, Mr Chairman. You are in a position where you have a member of this committee and a member of this House who is acting in terms of his right and privileges. You have a member of this committee who is acting in terms of his responsibility to the people he represents. If the process is called into question, ultimately you as Chair, as the focus of this committee, are put in a very difficult position.

I simply ask therefore that this matter be dealt with as directed by the Speaker, and that Mr Tilson be given the fullest opportunity you can possibly find to allow him to bring forward whatever evidence is necessary so that he, and more important, the people who have the concern, can rest assured that their input is not only appreciated but valuable and meaningful.

Ms Harrington: On a point of order, Mr Chair: On the assumption we have just heard that we explore the allegation that has been made, I would like to suggest that if that is to go forward with regard to this particular solicitor's opinion, then we would need to look into at least five or six other people who have made allegations about the process of this committee.

Mr McClelland: Can I respond to that point of order?

The Chair: Very briefly.

Mr McClelland: It is an important matter. Bearing in mind the authority vested in this committee, with that goes the responsibility to respond to specific requests, specific incidents. I do not think it falls within our purview, nor is it wise, to begin to speculate about what might have happened if somebody had pursued an issue.

This is a direct response to a direct question by a member of this committee and a group of individuals he represents; it is not in the generic context you raise, and I think that is important. I agree that those issues are very significant, but this is an issue that has been brought here before for resolution. It does not therefore follow that every other potential difficulty of like kind should be canvassed at this time. We are here to deal with a specific situation.

Ms Harrington: Mr McClelland raised broader issues about this committee. Apparently we do not have transcripts for this allegation, but we have the transcripts of all the committee hearings for the past six months and there are certain things said in those that I would be referring to.

Mr Drainville: On a point of order, Mr Chair: Very respectfully, I just want to say to Mr McClelland that there is no difficulty at all with this committee taking a look at this issue, because the Speaker said we should take care of it. My objection is that it is a question of privilege. The Speaker ruled it was not a question of the privilege of a member of the House. That is the point I was trying to make, that it should be dealt with like this. That is fine.

The Chair: I will try to clarify this. I have been looking at this since yesterday and I have been discussing the matter with the clerk, who is chief adviser to our committee. It is our joint conclusion that the Speaker referred the matter back to the committee because the matter was raised as a point of privilege not by the committee but by a single member. It would have to be the conclusion of the committee that some breach of privilege took place. The committee would then have two options. We could report back to the House asking for permission to call certain witnesses and try to obtain certain documents, or we could refer the whole matter to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly and have it do what we would want to do.

The Speaker did not accept Mr Tilson's point of privilege as a point of privilege on behalf of the committee, and that is why it was referred back to us for further discussion or conclusion or however we wanted to deal with it. That is my interpretation and that is the clerk's interpretation. If we want to have any discussion on that, maybe now is the time to do it. If not, we are going to carry on because we have a very lengthy list of speakers.

Mr Marchese: On the question of the material, just in defence of what Mr Mammoliti was saying, if we are going to have a meeting, it is very useful to get whatever material is to be distributed at the meeting in advance, particularly if it is available to you. It should be made available to us. As a matter of process, I think all members will agree with that. It will just allow us the benefit of reading the material so we are well informed before we come here. It is very difficult to read it while we are here. Whatever Mr McClelland was saying about this, I think he should reconsider that as a matter of process.

On the issue of the integrity of the committee process, Mr Tilson brought this matter to our attention the last time and he is doing so again, appropriately. Mr Drainville concurred with some of the comments Mr Tilson made about the process and whatever comments were made by the solicitor. I think Mr Drainville spoke on behalf of all the members here about the inappropriateness of those comments.

Now we have the same situation repeated. Mr Tilson brings us back to the same issue, and we have Mr Drainville repeating his agreement and saying that whatever has been said by that person is inappropriate, if it has been said. So we are going through that discussion again in order to deal with the matter. I do not know whether this repetition is helpful, but if members feel it is useful to repeat it, I guess we will repeat it, and we repeat concurrence with some of those opinions. We have done that.


I do not know what more can be done when both sides say that if indeed this has been said, it is inappropriate and those responsible should be reprimanded. We have done that. I do not know whether we need to find yet another forum or another way to communicate that disagreement with what may have been said. We agree with you.

The additional point I want to raise is that -- and perhaps I am mistaken -- did the minister not say that she was looking into this matter?

Mr Tilson: The minister has never spoken on this subject, to my knowledge.

Mr Marchese: The minister has not? Okay.

Mr Tilson: She has never spoken to this committee or to the House.

Mr Marchese: Okay, that is fine. I was looking for direction because I thought the question was addressed to the minister and that the minister had said she was going to look into the matter. For clarification, Mr Chair, I would like to hear it again.

Mr Tilson: I can say that I briefly met the minister in the hall -- it was as brief as that -- where we briefly discussed the subject. Nothing was resolved one way or the other. To my knowledge the minister has never spoken on this subject in the House, nor has she spoken to this committee. I will say that just by chance we met, out in the hall or the parking lot, and we briefly spoke.

Mr Marchese: That is fine. It was just for my own clarification.

I want to speak very briefly on the process because the member raises a question of process. I am one who agrees that processes need to be correct and the perceptions of those processes need to be a reality, and where they are not, we need to address them. I personally want to say that if that has been said by that person, those comments are inappropriate and they should not have been said. When a committee does its work, it needs to operate with the understanding that it has the power to deal with issues in a way that allows it to understand that it will be free and unhindered and not prevented by other forces -- by a minister or some other person within a ministry -- from doing its work. I just wanted to reiterate that in the process we need to be very clean and clear, and we have already agreed with the member that whatever may have been said was inappropriate.

Mr Brown: I think this is a very important discussion we are having here this morning because it comes right to the basis of what we, as members of this assembly and members of committees, are about.

The difficulty here is that, according to the information we have, a solicitor representing the government has made some charges that would make us appear to be irrelevant, make us appear to be kind of some little sideshow that goes on, that the work we do here is not in the interests of anybody. I think as members we have to take offence. There have been some very thoughtful comments from all around the table. Some very good points have been made from all sides.

I think the committees are very important. I think we as individual members have very important work to do and that the public of Ontario has every right to believe that when they come before this committee they will be heard and their opinions, though not necessarily agreed with, will be taken into account, and that we as members listen to them, evaluate their points of view and decide on the basis of the arguments we have heard before us and other sources what is appropriate. I think the people have a right to expect this. The people have a right to expect that members may change their minds on the basis of the information presented to them.

As I look at this letter, where it alleges that the solicitor representing the government says the general government committee is of "no significance," that the general government committee is really "just a way of creating political heat," that the general government committee is composed of six members from the NDP and five from the other two parties and that all the NDP members could be absolutely counted on to stick to the government's position, I think if that is the case, it is totally offensive. The people who should be most offended are the government members, who have just been told by a government solicitor that they are trained seals. I think that is really offensive, and that is what we have heard from the government members also.

The question then is, what do we do about it? I am not sure what we do about it, but I think this is an issue of enough importance that we should pursue it. I am not willing just to say, "Well, that's it, let's forget it," because this is very important. I do not say that in a partisan way. We have a new politics. We have a new reality out there. People in this province and across Canada believe that members should form their own judgements, should be accountable to them, that party lines are not as important as they used to be, that the government, in the general sense, should be far more open. We are hearing that over and over, at least I am in my constituency, and I suspect you are in yours. This is exactly the wrong signal and it is time for us to stick up for our rights as members and for our rights in committee.

Mr Chair, I think you are asking for advice. You want to know what this committee wants to do, and I am interested in how we resolve this also.

Mr Bisson: The beautiful thing about speaking a little bit later in the order is that most of the points have been made, so I will try to be as succinct as possible.

As other members of the committee have said, the points raised by Mr Tilson are fairly important. If indeed a person said the things alleged in regard to the process of this committee, I think that is not acceptable; I would have to agree with that. To make the point that the process of committee is one that does not function and somehow or other makes no difference to the process is wrong.

I know, as the members of this committee know because they have been in this business of politics for a long enough time, that when a government, be it a Conservative, Liberal or NDP, brings a bill to the House, by the time it comes out of the committee process many changes have been made. Sometimes, in fact, the bill never surfaces again if there is that much opposition to it.

When we talk about the question of party lines, the accusation is made that because you are a government member, somehow or other you are a trained seal and you have to do strictly what the government says because of your party. I think that really is an overstatement, and if it comes to that a little bit of overkill.

The reality of politics in Canada is that we run on the British parliamentary system, a system that recognizes that there are parties within that Parliament. I think all of us, let it be from the Conservative caucus, the Liberal caucus in opposition or the NDP caucus in government, at times have to make decisions as a caucus and decide to take whatever position on whatever piece of legislation or regulation that we feel strongly against or strongly for on a particular issue. That is the way the whole system proceeds.

Quite frankly, the system has served this country fairly well over the past 120-odd years. To a certain extent, we have built up a very caring society that has a lot of positive aspects for the members of that society. I really think it is because of the British parliamentary system that this happened, and also because of the party lines, quite frankly. Because a government of the day would decide to do a particular thing or not to do a particular thing, other parties would bring forward points of ideology that they were either for or against. The whole system tends to grow out of that and we tend to make better legislation for the people of this province. We should really think hard when we talk about whether we should try to bring down those party lines.

As a committee member and as a government member, I tend to agree with Mr Tilson that if what was alleged to have been said was said, it is totally unacceptable and should not have been said. But the question is, where do we go from here? I think the point has been made. I think the minister is aware. From conversations I have had with the minister about this -- and it is an issue of concern to me because obviously those comments were made towards members of this committee, of which I am a member -- I am fairly satisfied that the issue will be dealt with.

I would like to make a very brief point about committee information. The point has already been made, but I would just like to bring it back again, and I realize that the Chair has difficulty sometimes because there are many things that happen in the life of the Chair, many things to oversee in regards to a committee. Being Vice-Chair of another committee and having chaired for a while, I understand the limits that are put on your time to be able to deal quickly with certain issues.

On the question of the documentation that I, along with the rest of the members of this committee from all sides, received this morning, I only wish it could have been provided to me earlier. I feel my privileges as a member have been somewhat -- I would not say taken away; I do not want to put it in that strong a term. But if I am expected to come here as a member to give a useful contribution to this committee in order to try to resolve issues such as this, it would be very useful to have this information earlier so that I could sit down as a member, go through it and try to balance it off against some of the understandings I have in dealing with the ministry and dealing with the minister on this particular issue.


Going through it today, I am not in agreement with everything I have seen in this documentation. I think it is a little bit of speculation on the part of the people who wrote it. What was said and inferred in a smile is a heck of a lot different from what is said in an actual court transcript. From what I understand, there is a little bit of a grey area as to what was said there.

In closing, I basically agree with Mr Tilson. I think what was said was wrong, if it was said at all. I am satisfied that at the end of the day the ministry will deal with this issue, that if this person actually did what this person is accused of, it will be dealt with. I think this committee has a lot of other business to deal with. There are pressing issues that the people of Ontario want us to deal with, and we should move on.

Mr B. Murdoch: This meeting today is not about personalities or things like that. It is about the integrity of this committee. We have been challenged. I do not believe the ministry is going to look into it; I think this committee has to do this. We were told by the Speaker of the House that this is a committee problem, and I think that is why we are here today -- to discuss specifically the challenge to this committee, not whether we got this today or whether we got it yesterday. Both parties sometimes leave things on each other's desks the day we have a meeting. I remember when we first came in last week, that was the first time I had seen the position of the NDP party, when it was sitting on my desk. It happens to everybody. I do not think we need to get into all this kind of stuff.

Mr Bisson: Excuse me. Could you just repeat that? I did not quite catch that.

Mr B. Murdoch: The first time I saw your position on the hearings we had about registry offices was last week when it was sitting on my desk when I got here. We all do this, and sometimes we do not get it ahead of time so as to do it. That is understandable.

We are not here about things like that. We are here because the integrity of this committee has been challenged. I think we have to deal with that. We may have a hearing about it and subpoena people who supposedly said these things. Maybe that is what we are going to have to do. That is why we are here. We are not here to talk about whether you agree with me or whether I agree with you on different things. None of us wanted things to be said about this committee. I think that is why we are here and that is what we have to deal with today, whether we are just going to let this go aside.

As Ms Harrington said, there are many other allegations too. Maybe we should look at these allegations. I think the people of Ontario want these committees to work, and we certainly cannot work with a cloud sitting over us. I cannot feel good about it with a cloud sitting over us. I made those remarks quite clear, I think.

I think we are going to have to deal with this situation that has been brought to our attention. It is not about the registry closings. That has been dealt with. It is about why this committee is here. And what about the next issue to come before the committee? Are we going to have the same cloud sitting over us on the next issue? I would like to see us do something in this regard, and whether it is a hearing of our own here or not, I am open for suggestions.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I too see this as a very serious matter and certainly now, having the documentation before me, I see it as even a more serious matter. I think the minister has to come before this committee and explain and certainly verify for us that there has been some investigation.

I find that we are talking here about things we do not have a transcript for, but we certainly are dealing with professional people, people who have credentials, whether they are highly respected lawyers, solicitors or journalists. I read in this documentation that we have had today not what was read by my colleagues, but that on the date of the hearings, "The judge was prepared to recess to allow counsel to obtain instructions, but as indicated above, instructions had already been sought and given in the negative."

These are the kinds of symbols we are talking about today: What the solicitor actually said and the actions that were taken on that day by this solicitor. The solicitor has indicated to several people, including other witnesses and journalists, that she was indeed satisfied that she had canvassed all these matters with the government before her submissions and relayed its positions to the court. So not just what she said, but the way in which the process of her presentation was developed as a crown lawyer, certainly leaves a lot to be judged.

The committee structure is one where we, as legislators, can deal with the persons we are truly here to serve. The persons we are here to serve cannot walk on to the floor of the Legislature to talk to us. There we talk to each other; here we are given an opportunity over and over, both at Queen's Park and across this province, to talk to people where they are, and to listen to their concerns.

The process is totally in question here, particularly the timing and the fact that all of this, whether it was court hearings or time lines that seemed to be firm and written in stone, was taking place while people were presenting their cases. I feel very strongly that the minister has to answer the question of why that happened. What was the reason for the acceleration? This particular process has been examined and considered by three successive governments over a period of more than 10 years. I cannot understand the need for hurry.

My concerns are grave because not just this committee but every committee of the Legislature is being brought into question when people come before us and feel that it is somewhat of a charade and that decisions are made before they even make their presentations. There is no attempt to change time lines. There is no attempt to obtain their witnessing as real evidence of a change in direction.

I certainly request that we pursue this. My suggestion is that we ask the minister to come before us and, if possible, bring this solicitor with her. I feel we have every right to know what is being said in venues other than this about the work of our legislative committees.

Mr Mammoliti: I will not take long. First of all, let me say one thing. I apologize for perhaps being a little aggressive earlier. I get emotional when I have to cancel meetings and perhaps put off some of the concerns in my riding. That is one of the reasons I was emotional. I guess Mr McClelland really did not understand what I was trying to say. I understand this is an important issue. That is not what my concern was earlier. My concern was that I think we could have had this discussion last week. The information was there last week and Mr Tilson knew about it. Instead of certain individuals walking out last week, they could have extended this conversation.

I take pride in what I do. I certainly like to prioritize my time. When I see particular discussions taking place a week late, or perhaps two weeks late, I get emotional. That is when I have to bring out that frustration. I just wanted to make that clear to the committee. I think I was somewhat misunderstood the first time.

The Chair: Thank you. Mr Villeneuve and Mr Tilson, and I am cutting the list off there.

Mr Villeneuve: Mr Chairman, when were you made aware of the government report tabled last Thursday? When were you made aware of it as Chair of this committee?

The Chair: Just one second. We will have to check the clerk's records, but it could have been the day before.

Mr Villeneuve: It could have been the day before, thank you. Some people were saying we could have extended and discussed more last week. All I can tell you is there was a report on this very desk that we saw for the first time at 10 o'clock last Thursday morning. Simultaneously, people from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations were in the registry office in Perth telling them they had to move. What sort of credibility does that give this committee, when we had not seen what the government report was? Yet it was in the hands of the ministry and, while we sat here seeing that report for the first time, ministry officials were in Perth saying, "Look, we've decided to switch. We're now keeping Almonte open and we're shutting down Perth."


My colleague the member for Lanark-Renfrew received a fax from a solicitor in Perth while we sat here, telling him what was happening. If that is not undermining committee work, I do not know what undermining committee work is. I am very sorry, but that is what happened. These are the facts. If this government or the government members on this committee saw fit to put out their little report and present it to the committee last Thursday morning, even as ministry officials were in the process of doing what six members of this committee, without consultation and unilaterally, decided should be done, I cannot accept that.

We speak of legislation going in with many amendments. This was not legislation. This was a decision made by a minister somewhere to shut down some registry offices that had been open, in the case of my constituency, for almost 200 years. We as the opposition can choose only one subject a year under section 123. We saw enough importance in this one to use our once-a-year opportunity.

I must go back to the member for Kitchener, the man who is now the Minister of Energy, who said, "We have the big hammer. You are bringing in a bunch of flacks from your ridings." The people who came to this committee deserve an apology from that member. I do not care what anyone says, he sat on that side of the committee room and laughed at people who came here in good faith intending to be listened to. This is what has come out of this charade. I am totally aghast at the system and the situation. We have one opportunity a year and we were laughed at. There is something wrong.

Mr Tilson: The Speaker has ruled as a result of my raising the issue in the House last week. The ruling was made, I believe, on Tuesday:

"This is clearly a matter which is before the standing committee on general government and ought to be settled in the committee, not in the House. After considering the court transcripts, the committee may make a report to the House on matters which affect its proceedings. There being no report from the committee, the matter may not be raised as a question of privilege in the House."

That was the Speaker's ruling and the clerk has delivered that to all of us. In other words, the Speaker is saying this committee may investigate the matter.

The Chair: What the Speaker is saying, if I may interject, is that the committee may make a report to the Legislature that the committee process has in some way been breached.

Mr Tilson: You are quite right. It is unfortunate that there is not a transcript. Because there is not a transcript, we have yet to hear from the minister and we have yet to hear from the solicitor. To be fair to the solicitor, did she even make these statements? The reason I raised it is that I accept the word of two solicitors who said they were made. I accept the word of journalist Claridge that a statement was made. But to be fair to her, she may not have made them. I think we should hear from her.

More important was the issue raised, I believe, by Mrs O'Neill. It was referred to in two sections of the various pieces of correspondence before us. One is the October 16 letter addressed to you as Chair from Mr Deverell. On page 3 he says:

"Mr Justice O'Driscoll asked counsel for the ministry whether she would consider seeking instructions on the matter of whether the ministry was prepared to postpone the Arthur closing to allow time for him to work on the decision. The answer to the judge was that it had been anticipated that this very situation might arise, and counsel advised that her instructions were that the ministry would not agree to postpone the closing of the Arthur registry office for that reason. The judge was prepared to recess to allow counsel to obtain instructions but as indicated above, instructions had already been sought and given in the negative."

Solicitors do not make things up. There are a number of solicitors in this very room. They do not just create statements; they receive instructions. According to Mr Deverell, who was present at the hearing, solicitor Joan Haberman received instructions from the minister as to her submissions before Mr Justice O'Driscoll. So the minister must come, as Mrs O'Neill has stated, and explain herself to this committee.

I believe Ms Haberman, as the solicitor who made these representations on behalf of the government of Ontario, should come and explain herself. Did the minister make these statements? If the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations instructed solicitor Haberman to make those comments to Mr Justice O'Driscoll, then she has some explaining to do with regard to interfering in the committee process in this government.

The other statement on this point was, I believe, from Mr Fallis in a letter of October 15 to you, Mr Chair. On page 2, referring to Mr Claridge being the reporter for the Globe and Mail, he states:

"Mr Claridge went on to further indicate that he was so concerned with the crown's submissions that he challenged the crown's lawyer at a break in the proceedings to see whether or not these were just her personal submissions and not that of the government. He indicated that he was indeed satisfied that she had canvassed all matters with the government before her submissions and relayed their position to the court."

Solicitor Haberman was indeed repeating the instructions she had received from the minister, a minister of this government.

It has gone beyond the issue of closing registry offices. It goes to the attitude of the government members. Mr Villeneuve has referred to the conduct of the now Minister of Energy and his performance at these hearings. We heard the words of the minister herself in the House in response to a question of mine as to whether she would consider delaying the proceedings until this committee had made its report.

We have heard facts now given to us that the Perth registry office was being closed on the very day the government side made its report to this House. We had not even heard of it. We had not even heard that the Perth office was going to be closed. The only way we heard was via a piece of paper that we received on our desk as we were sitting down last Thursday morning, and a fax that came from Mr Jordan's office.

One of the members has asked, "What we are going to do with it?" Mr Bisson or Mr Marchese, I do not know which, said that the minister will deal with this. That is not enough. I submit she is the cause of this. She has an obligation to come and explain herself to this committee. The idea that we are going around in circles, that I am saying one thing and Mr Drainville and Mr Bisson are saying that it is wrong, is not good enough. What are we going to do with it? If we all agree that this is wrong -- and for once we agree on something -- then what is this committee going to do with it? Are we going to turn the other cheek and let that cheek be slapped as well?

I wish to make a motion to this committee and if there is further debate or discussion, I would like to make it after that person has spoken.

The Chair: We have had quite a bit of time for debate, almost one hour and 15 minutes actually.


Mrs Y. O'Neill: Well, this is an important matter.

The Chair: I understand the reason we have had such lengthy debate, as Mrs O'Neill has reminded me, is that it is such an important matter.

I believe I have given all sides a fair opportunity to put forward their views. I understand that both Mr Tilson and Mr Drainville wish to make motions. I was informed by Mr Drainville some time ago that he wished to make a motion. Mr Drainville will be allowed to make his motion, and we will have discussion on the motion. Then Mr Tilson will be allowed to make his motion, and we will have discussion on that.

Mr Drainville: As you said, we have expended a fair amount of time. It is an important issue.

The Chair: I think will get right to the motion.

Mr Drainville: That is fine.

The Chair: Mr Drainville has a motion. The clerk is going to make copies of the motion. Can I please have everyone's attention because I would like to start debate on this motion immediately. I would like to read the motion into the record and the clerk will then make copies of it for all of us.

Mr Drainville moves that, whereas certain remarks have been alleged by a lawyer representing the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations which, if such comments were in fact made, would be considered totally unacceptable to all members of the committee, the committee recommend to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations that she investigate the truth of these allegations and, if they are proven to be true, that appropriate disciplinary action be taken to correct this unacceptable public utterance.

Mr Drainville, you are allowed to speak first on your motion.

Mr Drainville: I am not going to take a lot of the committee's time on this issue. I think we have discussed it quite long enough. Suffice it to say, our position is one of agreement. We do not believe that it would be to the benefit of this committee to go through any protracted, long discussions about something which obviously is unacceptable. The government members have indicated from the beginning, when it was raised, that it is unacceptable. So to try to get into any public great denunciations of this, which we already denounce, makes no sense. The motion is clear. We are asking the minister to do something about it. If this is proven to be true, the minister should do something about it, and I believe this committee should recommend such action.

Mr Tilson: The difficulty I have with the motion is that there is no obligation on the minister to report to this committee. We may never hear about it again. Our reputation as a committee has been challenged. The minister in her discretion may wish to deal with it. She may not wish to deal with it. She may wish to conclude that the remarks made were not serious enough. Maybe she feels that they were. She has no obligation to do anything.

I believe the minister should come to this committee. This committee is the one that is going to decide whether our reputation has been challenged. I cannot stand here and allow a minister who we are challenging, who is being challenged herself as to her conduct in this performance, to take it upon herself to deem whether something is wrong. This committee is the one that decides what is wrong, not the minister.

Ms Harrington: It is her responsibility. You are not the minister.

Mr Abel: We are not a judge and jury.

Mr B. Murdoch: She is not responsible to this committee.

Mr Tilson: There is no obligation on this minister to even report to this committee. She may write a letter and say, "Everything is fine and dandy." That is not good enough.

Mr Abel: He is on a witchhunt, that is the problem.

Mr Tilson: I am not on a witchhunt at all; I am questioning the challenge to the whole committee --

The Chair: Yesterday, I was sitting in a committee and uttered scarcely more than an interjection and I was almost thrown out of the committee.

Mr Brown: Say it's not so.

The Chair: I do not particularly think a committee should be run the way I saw yesterday's committee run. I believe that we should allow, when appropriate, some free exchange, and then after that free exchange has taken place, we should allow the member to go back to having the floor again. Mr Tilson.

Mr Tilson: There is no question that the minister should investigate this and the minister should come to this committee and report to us, as should others. All we have received is some letters to you and some letters to me. That is all we have. The minister has had a week to think about this and she has not even seen fit to provide information at this stage. I am amazed that she has not started an investigation on it already. Why in the world would it take a motion from this committee? I cannot believe that she has not started an investigation already.

Mr Drainville: How do you know she has not?

The Chair: Mr Tilson, I understand then that you are do not favour this motion?

Mr Tilson: Yes.

The Chair: The list I have is Mr McGuinty, Mr Bisson and Mrs O'Neill.

Mr McGuinty: I think that in the normal, run-of-the-mill circumstances it would be quite appropriate for the minister to conduct an investigation, but for reasons already mentioned by Mr Tilson, I think it would be quite inappropriate and improper for the minister to conduct this kind of an inquiry. That is because we are dealing here with a solicitor-client relationship.

When you talk about a lawyer and a client, the relationship they have is one of principal and agent. The principal's job is to tell the lawyer what to do, so in effect the minister will be placed in a conflict-of-interest position. She is effectively investigating herself. By virtue of the solicitor-client relationship, she is telling or has told -- that is the presumption -- and if that lawyer did something the minister did not tell her to do, then the recourse is to fire the lawyer or to sue her. To my knowledge neither of those proceedings has begun.

The minister in these circumstances, by virtue of that special relationship, is a player. She is a participant. She is not standing here at arm's length with some kind of third party with no interest. First, we need to hear from the solicitor and others present at the hearing, because of the difficulty we have in not having a transcript as to what actually took place, to find out what the solicitor said. Second, we need to hear from the minister in order to determine precisely what her instructions were to her solicitor.

Although in the usual circumstances it would be appropriate to have the minister conduct an inquiry, in these particular circumstances it would be inappropriate, by virtue of the minister's interest in the matter and her having provided instructions to her solicitor. So I cannot support the motion.

Mr Bisson: I notice we have changed to the Vice-Chair.

Understand where I am coming from: I have a bit of difficulty supporting what Mr McGuinty just said. The reality is that he is right to a certain extent. The minister has people working for her and gives direction as to how particular orders are to be carried out or how what shes wants to happen, happens. How lawyers deal with that in the courtroom, what words are going to be used, how things are going to be put together and how they conduct themselves in the courtroom, is not really the responsibility of the minister. It is inappropriate action on the part of lawyers themselves if indeed they said what was alleged to have been said.

So to say that the minister said to the lawyer, "This is what you've got to do and this is how you're going to deal with it and this is what you're going to say," is, I think, imputing quite a bit to the minister, because I for one have a hard time believing that any minister of the crown, be it a New Democrat, a Liberal or a Conservative, would ever put himself in that position. I have a hard time trying to agree with that.


The reality is that the minister is responsible for running the affairs of her or his ministry in the same way that in the private sector a president of a company or a CEO is responsible for running a company. The president or the CEO of a company has a particular responsibility for carrying out the process of business, as does a minister. If there is discipline to be given because a person within that person's employ has done something wrong, it is up to the CEO and the organization to deal with it. It is not the responsibility of somebody on the outside to say, "This is how you are going to discipline that person."

I think our side of the committee, the same as the opposition side of the committee, is saying, "What was said was unacceptable." If what was said is true and it is investigated by the person who is responsible, who is a minister -- that is the person who is in charge of that ministry -- he or she should take appropriate action with that. They have the right to discipline. She is the employer; she is the one finally responsible.

For a number of reasons, I think it is inappropriate on the part of this committee that we should determine whether the person is guilty. We are not the jury here. We are the members of a committee of the Legislature who are here in order to conduct the business of the House as the bills come to us within this committee. It is not our job to go out and decide whether somebody is guilty or not guilty. We are not the employer in this case; neither are we a jury.

In this particular case, what we are alleging here is that an employee of a ministry did something that was possibly inappropriate. If that is the case, it is up to the ministry to deal with it, not this committee. That is where I part company with you. If true, it was inappropriate, but I do not think it is up to this committee to decide what kind of appropriate action should be taken. That is up to the ministry. So on that I have to part company. I agree with what was done.

I trust that in the end the minister will do what has to be done. We have to trust that the minister will go back to the ministry and have the situation investigated and, if it turns out to be true, to make a decision that she as the employer has the right to make and to carry out discipline, if that is necessary. But it is certainly not the responsibility of this committee to determine who is right, who is wrong and what kind of discipline should be given. We would not expect that to happen in the private sector; we should not expect that to happen here.

Mr Drainville: On a point of order, Mr Chair: All sides have now commented on this. I know that Mr Tilson is going to have a motion. To expedite matters, now that every party has commented on it, could we not just move to the question and then go to Mr Tilson's motion?

The Vice-Chair: Mr Drainville, just for clarification, are you asking if there is agreement of the committee that we move to a vote?

Mr Drainville: That is right.

The Vice-Chair: I still have a number of people on the list.

Mr Drainville: I am asking that because all sides have now commented on it.

The Vice-Chair: That is what I was trying to determine. Is there agreement that the vote be held now?

Mrs Y. O'Neill: How many more speakers do we have, Mr Chairman?

The Vice-Chair: We have on the list Mrs O'Neill, Mr Marchese and Mr Mammoliti, so there are three speakers. I would just as soon hear from them if they can be brief; or they can withdraw from the speaking order if they wish.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Mr McGuinty would also like to be added to the list.

The Vice-Chair: I think Mr Drainville was just asking, do we have --

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I know. We do not have unanimous agreement, Mr Chair.

The Vice-Chair: All right, fine. Then we have Mrs O'Neill.

Mr Abel: On a point of order, Mr. Chair: Did Mr Drainville not call the question?

The Vice-Chair: I tried to clarify that. I do not think he did.

Mr B. Murdoch: You cannot do that unless you have agreement from everybody.

Mr Abel: It does not have to be unanimous. If you call the question, you vote on it. It does not have to be unanimous.

The Vice-Chair: I do not think Mr Drainville did that.

Mr B. Murdoch: I asked that last week.

The Vice-Chair: Mrs O'Neill has the floor at this point.

Mr Drainville: I was doing it in a non-confrontational way, Mr Abel.

The Vice-Chair: That is how I understood it.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: This question came to the floor of the Legislature last Thursday. The Speaker ruled on it this Tuesday. He stated: "This is clearly a matter which is before the standing committee on general government and ought to be settled in the committee." That, I think, is his instruction. Removing it from this committee is, in my mind, going against the advice we sought and which was sought by a member of this committee. I feel that we are not just talking about solicitors' remarks here; we are talking, as Mr McGuinty has reminded us, about a client or crown attorney and a minister.

We have had lectures in this room this morning about democracy and how we should be MPPs and how we can relate to people in our constituencies. The ministers of this crown are accountable, as are all ministers, as indeed we all are, but certainly ministers of the crown are even more accountable. I feel there was a series of actions surrounding this event. It is not just a few statements by a solicitor. Many communities were being affected, and we still did not see that the minister was intent on listening. That is really the crux of the matter. I feel very strongly that the minister must come before this committee, and therefore I cannot accept this resolution as presented.

Mr Marchese: The Speaker ruled that this committee should deal with it, and we are. That is why there is a motion before us and we are considering that.

A number of comments made by a few members opposite are discomfiting to me and to some extent dangerous, because they make the allegation that the minister directed the solicitor to say certain things. Mr McGuinty did not say that, although he agreed with what Mr Tilson said and I should point out that Mr Tilson today made reference to that. Prior to this, I was going to suggest on a point of order that he be very careful when making those allegations, because we do not know whether there was indeed any discussion or whether anything was said between the two people. But I want to point out that it is a very dangerous thing to say that the minister may have directed the solicitor to say certain things, so the members opposite should be very careful in saying that.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, on a point of order: I was the one who made those statements, but we are quoting two separate letters from two separate individuals. I repeated the allegation made by two individuals who were present and heard the comments made by Joan Haberman.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you, Mr Tilson. I do not think that was a point of order but a point of clarification.

Mr Marchese: I want to be very clear about some of those comments because I think they are indeed inappropriate. Mr McGuinty speaks about the problem of the solicitor-client relationship with the minister and conflict of interest. It is inappropriate because she is investigating herself. I genuinely believe those comments are indeed inappropriate. A minister has a responsibility to deal with issues or problems whenever they occur, and simply because a solicitor is in the employ of that ministry does not mean the minister is implicated or indirectly investigating herself. It is inappropriate.

I think the motion before us is appropriate and proper, because what it tells this committee and others who might be seeing this is that the minister needs to address it and should. In our view this will be addressed, and this motion does just that.

Mr Mammoliti: I have sat here and listened to what I now agree, as my colleague said earlier, is a witchhunt. I do not like this at all. It is bad enough that you are trying to manage our affairs in the House; you are coming into committee and trying to manage the minister's affairs as well.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: It is Ontario's affairs, Mr Mammoliti. I do not know about your affairs.

Mr Mammoliti: In my opinion, we have dealt with this, we have talked about this. We are going to recommend, hopefully, and that is it. That is all we should do. Hopefully after our recommendation, the minister will investigate it.

More than that, I would accuse you of witchhunting; I would accuse you of deliberately trying to discredit us. Frankly, that is not the role of the committee, is it? I will say it again: We are supposed to be a team here.

In view of all this and in view of the fact that we are running short of time, I call the question at this time, Mr Chairman.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Mammoliti has asked that the question be now put. Those in favour of the question being now put? Those opposed? The question will now be put.

Mr McGuinty: Mr Chair, on a point of order: I just want to note for the record that this is a very serious matter, and effectively the debate is being --

The Vice-Chair: That is not a point of order, Mr McGuinty. There is no debate at this point.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, I would ask for a recorded vote.


The committee divided on Mr Drainville's motion, which was agreed to on the following vote:

Ayes/Pour -- 5

Abel, Drainville, Harrington, Mammoliti, Marchese.

Nays/Contre -- 4

McGuinty, Murdoch, B., O'Neill, Y., Tilson.

Mr Tilson: I wish to make a motion which is somewhat different from the motion that has just carried and which, I submit, complements the motion. I have written it out in longhand. No one will understand my writing, but I will be pleased to give it to you.

I move that the standing committee on general government conduct an investigation into the remarks made in a court of law by a lawyer representing the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations on the closing of registry offices and that the committee hear such witnesses as are necessary to making a report to the House on such matters as affect its proceedings. These witnesses would include but not be limited to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, Joan Haberman, Richard Lemaich, Gil Deverell, Peter Fallis, Thomas Claridge and Mr Justice O'Driscoll.

The Chair: I have before me the wrong motion.

Mr Tilson: That is because I have not given it to anybody.

Mr Marchese: There is a question here. We have just voted on a motion which was quite clear, and some members here voted in favour and some others did not. Is this motion not contrary to the previous one? Is it not clear that the speakers, in speaking to the other motion, were indicating a view and that this is already reflected in the previous motion and discussion? Could you comment on that?

The Chair: I think what I would like to do first is to read Mr Tilson's motion into the record as a courtesy. Does the committee want me to dispense with that?

Mr Marchese: This is what I am asking you to rule on, Mr Chair. If we have already voted on a motion on this issue, which clearly some agreed with and others opposed, and we understand that they are opposed to it for the reasons that are now indicated in another motion, is it necessary to go through it again?

The Chair: What I was going to suggest to the committee -- and I have also received advice from the clerk on this matter -- is that in my view Mr Tilson's motion is out of order because the committee does not have the authority yet, or has not been given the authority yet, to do what Mr Tilson's motion wishes us to do.

The Speaker, in my view, was very clear as to what he instructed the committee. He instructed that the matter be dealt with "before the standing committee on general government, and after considering" -- he refers at this point to transcripts, but I view that to mean whatever information is necessary.

He suggested that if we wished to go further, the committee had to present to the House a committee report, which I assume would be brought forward by the Chair, indicating that the committee's privileges had been breached and that this committee wanted to do something about it on its own or refer it to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly.

So on the instructions of the Speaker, and based on our traditions and conventions here in this Legislature and in committees, Mr Tilson's motion is ruled out of order. Mr Tilson's motion would be in order if the committee reported to the Speaker that it believes its privileges have been breached and therefore we want authority to call certain witnesses, obtain certain documents and carry on with some type of proceeding. That is my ruling.

Mr Marchese: Very well. So it is in order to move adjournment now, Mr Chair?

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, I am not so sure, with due respect, that I agree with you, but the clerk has obviously advised you on the proceedings and I will accept that reluctantly. Accordingly, if that is the case, that we must report back to the House that we require further authority to proceed with a motion similar to that I have put before you, then I would so move.

The Chair: Would you like to confer with the clerk for a couple of moments and try to get a motion together? The committee has other matters to attend to.

Mr Marchese: Mr Chair, I am having a difficult time with this. There was a motion that was put before. We voted on that and it passed.

The Chair: That is correct.

Mr Marchese: So in my view, that has dealt with the issue.


The Chair: Mr Marchese has the floor. Let him finish, please.

Mr Marchese: Which is to repeat what I have said. The other members have clearly expressed their view, which is reflected in the motion as well, and it was defeated by passing the motion that we passed. I do not understand why we are repeating the same process on another motion.

The Chair: Mr Marchese, I am not here to defend any party's point of view and I do not want anyone to construe my comments as a defence of Mr Tilson or anyone else. This committee and members of this committee have the right to make as many motions as they see fit. Even if Mr Tilson's motion appears to you or to anyone else to be a duplication or irrelevant or unnecessary, that is for each individual member to ascertain for themselves. The Chair has no authority.

Mr Marchese: But the Chair also has a duty in some ways to deal with the issue. If, from your point of view, it has been dealt with, you also have the responsibility to dispose of matters and not to drag them on unnecessarily.

The Chair: No. You give me more authority than I have, and some days I wish I had more authority than I have, but I do not have the authority to unilaterally inform Mr Tilson or Mrs O'Neill or Mr Bisson that their motions are irrelevant.

Mr Marchese: Very well. Thank you.


The Chair: Order, please. I understand what I am hearing from the members. Now let me explain to the members what I think Mr Tilson is trying to do.

Mr Marchese: No, Mr Chair. That is all right. I am quite prepared to listen to the motion and to deal with that as opposed to having to explain --

The Chair: I have the feeling that some members consider Mr Tilson to be out of order when he is not out of order.

Mr Marchese: No, that is fine, Mr Chair. I am quite prepared to listen to the motion again and to deal with it.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Mr Chairman, has Mr Tilson's motion changed?

The Chair: I ruled Mr Tilson's motion out of order.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Right. Is there a new motion now?

The Chair: Mr Tilson has a new motion.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Certainly the main objection I have to the motion that has been passed is that it does not give us the authority the Speaker gave us. There is no way in which we are involved any further and can solve this matter. To just send a letter to the minister making a request for an investigation is not the same as this committee working on this matter, and that really concerns me. So let's hear what the motion is.

The Chair: I appreciate that, but that was an issue that was talked about earlier.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I know. The debate was closed, and I think that is really important. For a second time the debate is being closed, or there is an attempt to close it, and that is just a bit much.

Ms Harrington: On a point of order, Mr Chair: In the direction given to this committee by the Speaker, it clearly said: "After considering the court transcripts, the committee may make a report to the House." "May" and "considering the court transcripts." Obviously there are none.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I would like to know why there are none.

Ms Harrington: Without the transcripts, we are on pretty shaky ground to say that we have authority.

Mr Tilson: I wish to make a motion, Mr Chair.

The Chair: Mr Tilson moves that, whereas this committee, based on documents currently in its possession, believes that its privileges may have been breached, this committee requests direction from the Speaker to further inquire into this matter.

Any discussion on Mr Tilson's motion? Mr Tilson, you have the right to go first.

Mr Tilson: I believe that this committee cannot leave this matter up in the air the way it is and simply allow the minister to investigate herself. It goes beyond that. It goes into questioning the whole committee process of this House, and the effectiveness of this committee specifically. All members have agreed that something has happened that is wrong. That matter includes the conduct of this minister. As I understand it, Mr Chair, the motion requires direction from the Speaker to conduct an inquiry and to subpoena or call witnesses. That is the intent of the motion.

The Chair: If I was like the Chairman I had to suffer through yesterday afternoon, I would probably have to expel everyone. I think it is important that we have some kind of interaction as we go along. It adds a lot to the debate, as far as I am concerned. But after that has been done, we should allow the member who has the floor to proceed.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, I appreciate you and the clerk assisting me. My intent is that this committee make its inquiries as to whether these facts are indeed correct. If they are correct, what are we going to do about it? What are we going to recommend to this House be done about it?

This is not picking on a specific minister, although obviously this minister, whether she likes it or not, is deeply, personally involved in this and we must hear from her. We must hear from her personally. We cannot simply allow her to go off and make her own report. The first motion has been passed and she may or may not comment on it. But we should have the right to have her come and explain her conduct and that of her solicitor in these entire proceedings. To do that, as I understand it, we need direction from the Speaker for this committee to make such an inquiry.

The Chair: We are running a list. Mr Drainville, Mr Mammoliti, Mr Brown, Mr Murdoch, Mr Bisson, Mr Villeneuve, Mr McGuinty, Mrs O'Neill.

Mr Drainville: We are hearing a repetition of everything that has gone on this morning. All I can say is it does not make any sense. We have gone over the ground. I move that we put the question, Mr Chair. It is noon. We have got to go to the House in a moment to vote.

The Chair: Mr Drainville moves that the question be now put. All in favour?

Mr Brown: Mr Chair, we want 20 minutes.

The Chair: Mr Brown has requested 20 minutes. The committee will reconvene at 12:15 sharp.

The committee recessed at 1155.


The Chair: The committee is reconvened. I believe everyone is here. The first vote to take place is on Mr Drainville's motion.

Mr Drainville: I move that the question be put, Mr Chair.

Mr Brown: I request a recorded vote, Mr Chair.

The Chair: Mr Drainville has moved that the question be now put. We have also been asked for a recorded vote.


The committee divided on Mr Drainville's motion, which was agreed to on the following vote:

Ayes/Pour -- 6

Abel, Bisson, Drainville, Harrington, Mammoliti, Marchese.

Nays/Contre -- 5

Brown, McGuinty, Murdoch, B., O'Neill, Y., Tilson.

The Chair: The second matter to be dealt with is Mr Tilson's motion. I will ask the clerk to read Mr Tilson's motion into the record.

Clerk of the Committee: Mr Tilson moves that whereas the committee, based on documentation currently in its possession, believes its privileges may have been breached, the committee requests authority from the House to further inquire into this matter.

Mr Brown: I request a recorded vote, Mr Chair.


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

Ayes/Pour -- 5

Brown, McGuinty, Murdoch, B., O'Neill, Y., Tilson.

Nays/Contre -- 6

Abel, Bisson, Drainville, Harrington, Mammoliti, Marchese.

The Chair: Is there any other business before we move adjournment?

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Mr Chair, would you please tell the committee what your report will be? I presume you are going to make one to the Speaker on this matter.

The Chair: I have no authority at this stage to make a report to the Speaker.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, I move that you be directed by this committee to make a full report to the House on the proceedings conducted this morning.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I would certainly think part of the report should be the two motions which were presented.

The Chair: The record is, in my view, sufficient to describe to anyone interested what happened this morning. I do not believe I have the authority to report the goings-on of this committee to the Legislature.

Mr Drainville: Looking at what was said by the Speaker in the House, it is very clear. It says that "after considering the court transcripts" -- there are none -- the committee "may" make a report to the House.

Mr Tilson: So let's decide. Are we going to make a report or not?

Mr Drainville: There is no need for a report. We have made the recommendation; it stands on its own.


The Chair: Seeing no further business put before the Chair --

Mr Tilson: Am I to assume, Mr Chair, that you are ruling my motion out of order?

The Chair: Mr Tilson, I cannot acquiesce to your motion, because what you are asking me to do is to report to the Speaker on the discussion that has taken place in a committee. There is no forum in the Legislature for me to do that.

Mr Tilson: Reports from committees.

The Chair: I cannot rise on a point of order. I cannot rise on a point of privilege. I cannot rise on reports from committees, because we have no report. There is no report.

Mr Drainville: There is no report.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: There was a motion made, with all due respect, Mr Chair, that I think needs to be reported to the House. This committee has requested -- and we certainly wanted more -- that the minister investigate this matter. I think the seriousness of this matter has to be kept in its proper profile.

The Chair: I did not believe it was possible to acquiesce to Mr Tilson's request. I have checked with the clerk for any precedent, for any convention, for any rules under the standing orders. The clerk supports my assertion that I am not able to report to the Legislature the request and the motion that has been passed this morning.

Mr McGuinty: Mr Chair, so that I am clear on your position, if the committee were to adopt a motion that would have you make such a report, would you not then be authorized to do so?


The Chair: Order, please. We cannot quite come to a conclusion on this last request made by Mr McGuinty. I am requesting that the committee give me five minutes so that I can consult with others. I will report back to the committee.

Mr Bisson: Can we refer this to the next meeting? Would that be possible?

Mrs Y. O'Neill: No, let's finish it. Five minutes only is the request.

The Chair: I will be back with a ruling before the committee no later than 12:30. I appreciate your co-operation.

The committee recessed at 1224.


The Chair: After significant consultation on the motion made by Mr McGuinty, I have to rule his motion out of order, the reasons being, first, that there is no reference from the Legislature to this committee to take such action and, second, that this committee has no authority under standing order 106 over the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.

The committee adjourned at 1241.