Wednesday 3 April 1991

Members' services and facilities

Members' advertising

Members' services and facilities

Schedule of meetings

Continued in camera


Chair: Duignan, Noel (Halton North NDP)

Vice-Chair: MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton NDP)

Cooper, Mike (Kitchener-Wilmot NDP)

Frankford, Robert (Scarborough East NDP)

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South PC)

Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex NDP)

McClelland, Carman (Brampton North L)

Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East L)

Murdock, Sharon (Sudbury NDP)

O'Neil, Hugh P. (Quinte L)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre NDP)

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

Substitution: O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York NDP) for Mrs Mathyssen

Clerk: Arnott, Douglas

Staff: Yeager, Lewis, Research Officer, Legislative Research Office

The committee met at 1546 in room 151.

The Chair: I call the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to order. The subcommittee met this morning and had agreed to an agenda for this afternoon -- the three items on the agenda -- and I understand has put together a proposed schedule of meetings for the months of April and May. Has everybody got a copy of the proposed schedule?


The Chair: We would like to begin by a review of members' services and facilities, and this afternoon we have Barbara Speakman, the executive director of assembly services, here to talk to us a bit about the Styrofoam containers and overpackaging in the Legislative Building.

This is an issue that has come forward to us in response to the questionnaire we sent out last year. It came from the Minister of Education, where she brings up the whole question of the Styrofoam containers and overpackaging in the Legislative Building.

Mrs Speakman: I believe that some members are perhaps unaware that we have drafted a policy statement on waste management in the food services area. We have, since early 1989, been progressively improving our waste management procedures in food services. Members who have been around for a while will remember the days where all of the catering used foam cups and not china, and we have changed, as you see, to china for all the committee rooms, for the lobbies, for the dining room. We are using bulk containers for creamers, sugars and so on, to avoid the use of all those little disposable containers.

We started back in 1989 with the first commercial blue box program in the city of Toronto. Up until that point, it was only a residential program. The Legislature jumped ahead of the Ontario government and we struck a deal with the city to do a blue box program for this building alone. But later, once the government introduced it to all the government buildings, we participated in that project. So we really have been trying to improve things progressively over the last couple of years.

In terms of the food services area, the last remaining problem area is the cafeteria and takeout food. We initially changed to biodegradable paper cups. However, we still had the problem of waste and the disposal of it and its going into the general garbage collection.

More recently, we changed to the recyclable polystyrene so that at least we would get some reduction of waste. It is still not our optimum. We would much prefer to find a better solution to that particular problem. A great amount of our cafeteria business at lunchtime is takeout.

We do put stuff on china plates for people who are staying in the cafeteria, but a great deal of it is just your own staff and the assembly staff having a quick salad or even a hot meal back at their office so that they can prepare for 1:30. We have decided to give in a little and have at least the recyclable polystyrene for the time being until we find a better solution.

Previously, the members who have been here for a while will remember we had the clear plastic containers, which were not recyclable and just went into the garbage. So we are trying at least to make advances, however small they may be, as time goes on.

We have had a fine paper and a newspaper recycling program for many years. We have had, as I say, the blue box program for glass and now the polystyrene recycling.

The phase for food services is the whole business of composting and the collection of the wet waste from the kitchens. Our main problem there has been lack of space. I think some of you have toured the kitchens before we renovated half of it, and the space was so tight and still is in some areas that there was not even room for the large recycling containers we wanted. So as we renovate, we are trying to build in better collection procedures for the food waste as we go through.

Leftover food from catering that is still usable goes to the missions -- not to the food banks, because it is prepared food, but at least to some of the missions -- and we try not to throw anything away if we can possibly help it.

You now have it, but last November the Speaker sent out a draft statement that incorporates all the things I have been saying today and asked members to give us their comments. In fact to date, we have only had two responses. I think that was perhaps because of the timing, with the new Parliament and staffing situations and then Christmas and the recess.

So I would really appreciate it if even now we could get a few more responses from the members, or perhaps from this committee might be the way to go on that particular draft statement of policy. The Speaker particularly asked for comments on the polystyrene recycling, because we were only contemplating it last November. However, we have gone ahead with it in the meantime. I think that is about all I had to say at this point. If anybody has any other questions.

Mr O'Connor: Just two comments. One could be perhaps the use of some sort of cup for the people who do have offices here, members' staff, that they could take with them to the cafeteria and, perhaps as an incentive, even be a nickel less or something for a cup of coffee. It might encourage them to bring their own cup with them. It might be a thought that they might be able to use.

Mrs Speakman: I did omit that, I am afraid, from my comments. We did introduce that last year. We participated in a program that the Ontario government put on, the glass mugs with a plastic lid. That went to every occupant of the building. Unfortunately, they do not seem to make their way to the cafeteria every day. One of our problems is they make their way home; they do not stay here in the building.

We have tried that, I think, three times now and we are willing to try it again as a fourth time because I think a lot of the members and staff who are now here were not here when that program was introduced. So we are willing to do it again, but I have to say it met with very limited success. We are still getting mostly walk-through traffic that takes a polystyrene cup and moves on. And we have had a very limited success. The nickel off, I think, is a good idea, or whatever that is --

Mr O'Connor: Or reverse it and make it even larger.

Mrs Speakman: I will certainly talk to Colin Perry about that.

Mr O'Connor: My office is not here.

Mrs Speakman: Or five cents more for the polystyrene might be a better idea. Certainly, it was something that was tried, and we are willing to try it again, but I have to comment that it was very limited success in this building and I really do not know why.

Mr O'Connor: My office is in the Ministry of the Environment and we are very concerned about it there for obvious reasons. Our cups go up and down the elevator with us to the cafeteria so that we do not have to go down there and take out a paper cup with us.

Another comment I would like to bring to this committee is something that was brought to me in the last session. One of the pages brought it forward to me: the fact that we have drinking coolers all around the Legislative Assembly, and at all of these coolers, there are these little paper cups for dispensing of water. That probably is quite useful in maybe keeping down the colds in the wintertime, but something that was brought to my attention was: Are they recycled, and where do they go from there? Obviously, they end up in the landfill, which is a problem. They are recyclable, but they are not recycled. So I wondered if there was any possible way of -- I mean, you then have wet paper.

Mrs Speakman: I really welcome these suggestions because we, with the best will in the world, design a program and then we discover that -- for example, we just introduced the polystyrene recyclable containers, but very few people want to come out of their office, take their cup along and put it out in the hall. They need something that is very close at hand, some better collection system.

The water cooler cups were supposed to go into a paper-recycling bin, but I think what happens is that bin gets moved along and then another little garbage can gets put in its place. So, yes, we have to tighten up these procedures. I agree with you.

Mrs MacKinnon: Are these recyclable?

Mrs Speakman: They are recyclable. However, this building does not have a plastics recycling program yet in the city; it is in the outlying townships. I know Markham has plastic, I think Mississauga has plastic, but I do not think we have it here yet. Again, it is the next step. We would prefer to use the glass containers; however, our storage problems are acute and we can stack those and get triple the amount in our coolers as the glass, which does not stack very well. So as we renovate, again, we are making more room for the glass, and if the plastic recycling catches up first, then we are okay. But all of these problems are being addressed gradually.

Mrs Marland: In answer to the question: Yes Mississauga does have all plastics. It was the first municipality in Ontario to accept all plastics: plastic film, margarine containers, Javex bottles and so forth.

I was just thinking, listening to this discussion, that one thing that might be helpful is at least to give all our new members and their staff those recycle mugs, because they were given out in the previous government at the initiative of the young, energetic member for Brampton North, who at that time was parliamentary secretary to the Minister of the Environment. For those of us who have them, they are a real option to use them.

I wanted to say one thing about the drinking coolers, which might be a disincentive to use them.

Interjection: Do not tell them.

Mrs Marland: No, I think you should know this, because then we may end up with fewer paper cups in the receptacles adjacent to them. When I first came down here, I thought this was marvellous. When I walked past those drinking coolers, I said, "Oh, isn't this great, Crystal Springs water or whatever." I guess I should not say that because that is a trade name. I retract that statement. It was bottled water, in any case, in these large containers, and I thought: "Isn't that terrific. At least we get to drink non-city of Toronto tap water."

One day, when one of the gentlemen was pulling the wagon along with all the empty containers, I said to him, "That is quite a job to get all these water fountains changed over and refilled," and he said, "Oh, yes, it takes us quite a long time to fill these bottles." I said, "You fill them?" He said, "Oh, yes, we fill them downstairs with the garden hose." And that is true, is it not? After we had taken over the building, we discovered that this was so and we changed the garden hose and put a better system of filling. We had the public health nurse in to make sure that it was done appropriately.

Mrs Speakman: Yes, it is tap water.

Mrs Marland: But the point is, it is tap water, so do not be under the illusion that you are drinking some special water. In any case, I introduced a private member's bill to regulate bottled water, because there are no standards for bottled water in Ontario, and we are safer drinking tap water, if the truth be known.

I wanted to pursue the idea of incentive pricing, because I think that is a terrific idea. Are you parliamentary assistant, Larry?

Mr O'Connor: I am parliamentary assistant for the greater Toronto area; the same minister.

Mrs Marland: Same minister, of course. I am wondering if perhaps the reason it did not work was that the price incentive was not big enough, because I do not really think that our staff are overpaid, where it would not be an incentive to try to save something. Maybe we could support you in a small price increase in order that you could give a greater discount for us bringing our own utensils. I wanted to mention all the plastic forks and knives and spoons as well. I realize that there is a cost factor to people walking off with those for their use and not returning them.

I am one of those people who eats in my office all the time, and I pick up my stuff at the cafeteria, but we routinely shuffle it all back down the next day on the same tray we borrowed the day before. But that is easy for me; I am in a handy location to do that. But I really think the idea of incentive pricing is a tremendous idea and I really would support any expansion you can make to that. As I say, if it means you have to go up a little in order to go down more --


Mrs Speakman: We can certainly look at that. I would be happy to. In terms of the china and the use of cutlery and china and going back to offices, you are right. It has been a major problem in losses. In fact, it was one of the reasons apparently several years ago that everybody changed to paper and foam, because so much did not return to the kitchen. Now we have what we call an amnesty every so often, where we send the bus boys or bus girls around to all the offices and just say, "Have you any china?" and just collect it. It is a little more work, but we do get, on each one, about five or six wagon loads throughout the building, and if that is what it takes, we are quite happy to do that.

Mrs Marland: Then you get all the plates from under the plant pots and all that.

Mrs Speakman: Yes.

Mrs Marland: I actually use my own knife and fork, but I do use the plates for the hot meals.

Mrs Speakman: I think there are a lot of things we can do to improve on what we have already started, and I would really like to hear any of those suggestions and see if we can make it even better. One of the other things we have done in the dining room, you have probably noticed, is that we have got rid of all the individual creams and sugars and things like that and use bowls and jugs and these large jugs here, and that has saved a tremendous amount of waste.

Mrs Marland: Yes, I am sure. I am just looking forward to when the dining room gets on to a health kick for all the members whereby it starts offering margarine instead of butter. Margarine keeps better, and whenever there was margarine in the small plastic containers against the butter in the small plastic containers, the margarine always went first.

Mr O'Connor: We have to take care of our farmers.

Mrs Marland: They make margarine. They grow the soya beans. I know what goes into margarine, Larry.

The Chair: Are there any further questions? I just have a comment. I noticed lately in the cafeteria when you go downstairs, and especially if you are in a committee meeting and you do not get out till about 12:30 and you run downstairs and grab a sandwich, there are generally two very long lineups and only one cashier on. I was wondering, is there some way of putting a second cashier on at those peak times to speed through the --

Mrs Speakman: We had added an extra workstation about a year ago over at the back and it is supposed to be staffed when the lineup gets long. If that is not happening, I will check it out, because that is why we put the extra workstation in, to avoid that long lineup. So I will go back and see what is happening.

The Chair: Okay, thank you. Any further questions?

Ms S. Murdock: Just one. I just noticed on the last page of the memorandum to all members from David Warner, the Speaker, that at the very last line, it says, "staff and visitors...any suggestions from...which will improve our efforts." There is nothing downstairs for visitors who might have a suggestion. I do not know what you would have, though. I loathe the idea of a suggestion box. But there is no indication down there that if a visitor had a suggestion they could put it in anywhere, and yet they do use the cafeteria oftentimes.

Mrs Speakman: That is right. I guess we will work to make everybody more aware of the environment and ways to protect it. Were you looking at the draft policy statement?

Ms S. Murdock: Yes.

Mrs Speakman: Yes, okay. I understand your point. We can easily do that.

Ms S. Murdock: Because I will bet you there are people who would have a wide range of ideas that none of us would even think of.

The Chair: Thank you, Barbara, for coming along.

Mrs Marland: You did not bring any snacks or anything?

Mrs Speakman: If you invite me back --

The Chair: We are in a time of recession.

Mrs Marland: Mr Chairman, you know the one thing I would like to do is -- I am not sure of this lady's title.

The Chair: She is the executive director of assembly services, Barbara Speakman.

Mrs Marland: Okay. You know one thing I would like to put on the record, Barbara, is that the meal our kitchen and our dining room staff presented to the members on 18 March was superb, both the service, the way the tables were set, and the meal content itself. I really think a commendation should go back, Mr Chairman, from this committee, since we are the committee responsible for services to members. I have written to the Speaker to thank him for the idea of hosting it, but the work and the planning that must have gone into that meal and the end result were just excellent, and I think we would like to convey, through you, Mr Chairman, the appreciation of all the members for the work and the planning and the end result, because it was a delicious meal, beautifully served.

Mrs Speakman: Thank you. I will also pass on your comments, because they would love to hear that things were successful.

The Chair: I will make sure it goes out to that effect.

Mrs MacKinnon: We did not even mind the interruption of being evacuated.

Mr O'Connor: The barbecue?

Mrs Marland: That was before I got down, I guess.

Mr O'Connor: There was a brief period where we had to recess while we went to the front steps because some of the new kitchen facilities --

Mrs Speakman: It was not actually a fire. To alleviate your concerns, it was just smoke from your barbecuing and the duct had not been completely closed after we had cleaned the duct, so the smoke went into the centre attic and of course all the alarms went off, so at least our alarms and evacuation procedures work.

Mr O'Connor: Work quite well, so we know we are safe there. Some traditions are worth keeping, though.

Mrs Marland: Mr Chairman, this is taking advantage of Barbara, but are you the person who is working on our pin?

Mrs Speakman: Yes, one of my staff is working on that.

Mrs Marland: What stage are we at?

Mrs Speakman: Karyn Leonard is working on it and her staff. I believe she has several designs at this point and she is getting prices, so we are fairly close.

Mrs Marland: Good, great. Well, the committee is looking forward to seeing the designs and having a report and being part of that decision-making, as you know. Thank you.

Ms S. Murdock: I know that Margaret and I are in agreement on this, but my suggestion was to put a little hook on the back so it could be used as a pendant as well.

Mrs Speakman: Yes, that suggestion went in to Karyn, so she is aware of it.

Ms S. Murdock: Oh, good.

The Chair: Any more questions? Thank you, Barbara, for coming along this afternoon.


The Chair: Moving on to item 2 on the agenda, that is the discussion around the House of Commons report setting out the five principles, with particular reference to the recognition that partisan activities are an inherent and essential part of the activities and functions of a member. This is in connection with householders and advertising by members, member services.

Mr Owens: I want to correct what I think is a wee bit of misinformation. At the subcommittee today I pointed out that it is not only householders that we should be concerned with. We have seen over the past several months members standing up and pointing the accusing finger at other members for alleged partisan activity with respect to their signs and householders. It was my intent in bringing the suggestion to the committee that we deal with all levels of "partisan activity," which you know, again, in terms of signs and in terms of householders. The guidelines that we have before us from the House of Commons clearly look at other areas than householders.

The Chair: Thank you for that point of clarification, Mr Owens. I guess the whole question is open for discussion at this time.

Mr H. O'Neil: I do not think we are proposing, though, that certain things are going to happen. In other words, if I had my "Hugh P. O'Neil constituency office, Liberal member", I do not think we would be pushing stuff like that, would we? In other words, there would not be any designation as to what political party you were either on your signs or on the literature that you send out.


Mr Owens: I think there would be no onus on any member to identify himself or herself with any political affiliation. What it would do, though, it would remove the problem -- if somebody wants to put a trillium on their sign, if someone wants to put an L on their sign or --

Mr H. O'Neil: I think there are going to be things that you do in the day-to-day operation where you were going to be involved in some political way, with a phone call or something else like that. But I do not think it is to our own advantage to do it, because we serve people of all parties, and I think it would deter people from coming to see you if we were to push it too far. I do not know what the happy medium is to give you some little bit of leeway, but I do not really feel we should push that too much.

Mr Owens: I guess, again, in terms of what you want to do personally in your constituency and what I would do in mine would be left up to the individual member, and clearly I am certainly not in favour of conducting membership drives or things like that out of the office. But the simple things such as we saw in Ottawa, a sample of a letter that came out from the Liberal caucus, and there was in the left-hand side, "Liberal critic for da, da, da, da." I mean, that is something that is tastefully done and they have applied the principle that clearly, just because you become a member in this House does not necessarily mean that you have burned your particular membership card in your party, and how you chose to use that in your own riding depends on you and how you feel your constituents will respond to that.

Mr H. O'Neil: In these five points we are talking about, that we have copies of, are there still guidelines for literature that they may put out in the householder, as to what -- I know we have guidelines. Do they have them, too, that are a little less stringent?

The Chair: I understand there are some guidelines but they are somewhat less stringent. But we can ask research staff here to come up with those guidelines for us for our next meeting.

Mrs Marland: Mr Chairman, are we planning this afternoon to discuss all aspects of partisan designation in our offices, our literature, our letterheads, our cards? Where are we going to go with this discussion, because there is a lot we can cover and I just want to know -- we have a lot of items to discuss this afternoon. If we are going to discuss the whole broad gamut, is it our goal to set parameters or is it our goal to, say, accept the federal? What is it that you want to do?

The Chair: I think what we are attempting to begin this afternoon is to begin the discussion around this issue, because it is an issue that is not going to be settled in one afternoon. It encompasses many, many aspects, and as many members may wish to appear before this committee and give some input --

Mrs Marland: Maybe, then, what we should do is have Andrew do some research for us with a synopsis of what exists in other provincial legislatures so that we can have some point of reference, rather than just our own personal points of reference at this point, because I think we all have a personal opinion on what could or could not be done or should or should not be done. So maybe we would be better to start with a point of reference with some research. Part of that can be the federal guidelines.

It is interesting how, when you start to read the federal guidelines, the section (c) that deals with the partisan activities, you can read so much into it if you want to. But especially in light of some of the challenges that have been made in this session of our Parliament, referring to outdoor signage, that kind of thing, I think it would be very good for this committee to invite other members to tell us what their opinions are, and then for us to draw up a set of guidelines as a recommendation as an end result, because at the moment we do not have guidelines, and I think, in fairness to the public, whose money we are using, we probably should have guidelines about what we do in terms of our partisan activities and publicizing those activities and those affiliations.

I think the ultimate goal for us, as a Legislative Assembly committee responsible for members, is that we want to be as highly professional as we can. We want every member in the House, regardless of party, to be respected in a highly professional manner. And the way that is done is where we make sure that we do not put ourselves in position that might be in conflict with that goal.

It is tough enough being a politician. With the kind of thing that went on in British Columbia yesterday, we all have to be so careful that our own individual actions do not tarnish all of us. And on a non-partisan basis, I have to say that I regard my colleagues in the House, regardless of party, to have the same goals and responsibilities that I have. And I think our credibility and our personal integrity stands when we look at what we do as being in the best interests of all the people we represent, and all of those people we represent are of all political stripes and no stripes at all. It is very sad if the public perceives us as being a PC member or a Liberal member or an NDP member, and out of their lack of knowledge they think that in order to deal with us they almost have to pretend that they are part of our party.

There are members of the public out there who do not realize that when you are elected you serve everyone, not just people of that same party affiliation, and if we develop a guideline that makes that point very clear, because we are not promoting our own party through the use of public funds, through advertising, notices, householders' outside signage or whatever it is, then I think we will all end up better off. But I do think it is a very big subject to get into this afternoon, if indeed you want to deal with these other items on the agenda.

Ms S. Murdock: In relation to setting up the schedule, I agree that there should be something set up. For instance, I am thinking along the line of time designated for specific areas, for instance, signage or newsletters, and break down the areas in which we would be involved or that there would be some partisan involvement or possible partisan involvement, and look at each of those areas separately and actually schedule in time allotments for those discussions. I think it is a good idea, and then that way write up a report. I would agree with that.

That other thing is that in regard to the federal newsletter, for instance, in my area, when it is an annual meeting or something for the riding association they are not allowed to notify that it is an annual membership meeting. They can call a general meeting for the public within the newsletter and announce it in that manner, but they are not allowed to direct it as a New Democrat or a Liberal or a Conservative function. So even though it has much more latitude than we have, there are still some restrictions on what they can do in terms of partisanness, if there is such a word, and rightly so, I think, in terms of what Mr O'Neil was saying earlier; many times I have had to tell constituents, both when I was working as a constituency assistant and now as member, that once elected it does not matter who you are for. You get calls saying, "Well, I voted New Democrat," or whatever, and you say, "Well, it doesn't matter, because I would help you regardless of whether you even voted." I think that is important, to keep that separateness in the constituency office. That is all I had to say.


Mr Owens: Just to take Sharon's idea a step further, I think it is reasonable to separate the issues we want to deal with. Perhaps we can take these areas and then invite our colleagues to come in and make commentary on these issues. I think Margaret is quite correct that we should not sit in isolation and decide these guidelines, that we clearly need to have outside consultation from our colleagues, so if we can look at drafting some kind of notice or deciding exactly which areas we need to address and then move on to the other items of the agenda.

Mr H. O'Neil: I think, too, that we have seen what has happened in the federal Parliament on these general principles they have come out with. We may want to fine-tune them more, but I do not think it would hurt in principle -- and you may want to discuss this for a minute -- to say that we see these five general principles here as things we should be looking at. We should leave ourselves, as members, some leeway. In other words, I suppose that even if we were to call home on our credit card or on our new number, we could be seen as doing something we should not be doing. These principles, I think, have been well thought out, and I think we have to give ourselves some sort of protection, too, so that we are not criticized for things that I think we should be allowed to do as part of our job. I do not know where you draw the line there. But even if we were to say that we were looking at this and we think those principles in general, although we may fine-tune them, actually set forth some protection for us -- I do not know what the rest think of that.

The Chair: So is it the opinion of the committee at this time to draft a memo to all members indicating that we are going to review this and include the five principles and outline the various areas we want to have a look at, such as the suggestion from Mrs Marland and Ms Murdock and Mr Owens, and wait for a response to come back from the members and then schedule those members in at a time to appear in front of the committee?

Mrs Marland: Yes, I think we should communicate with the members, but I think we have to give them some examples: you know, what are their opinions about party designation on stationery, outdoor signage in an office, householders?

Mr Owens: Yes, those are the kinds of things they are talking about as listing the items we wish to have their commentary on.

Mr H. O'Neil: And the present guidelines too. In other words, what the present guidelines put forward.

Mrs Marland: I think that is a good idea.

Mr H. O'Neil: And maybe include even these five principles -- I guess you would anyway --

The Chair: Yes.

Mr H. O'Neil: -- for them to have a look at as to what the federal people are looking at. I think that memo there is quite a good one, really.

Mrs Marland: These five principles from the feds actually do not deal with partisan designation. They are very vague. They are probably planned to be very vague.

Mr H. O'Neil: It also says in that memo that they are not finished. They are continuing to look at it, and maybe we should ask our research people to have a look at anything that has changed since this came out, anything else they have decided or are looking at, for our own information also.

The Chair: I will then ask the clerk and the research people to put together a package with a memo for review by this committee for next week. Any further discussion of this topic?


The Chair: Moving on to item 3, the schedule of committee business.

Mrs Marland: Are we also discussing things like Mr Giorno's letter and these other communications we have had from members? What does that come under?

The Chair: Yes, we can discuss the draft letter to our friend. I do not think it has been scheduled to discuss the other issues of members' services today. I notice 18 and 15 May and 29 May have been set aside to discuss those issues.

Mr H. O'Neil: There is only one problem. It is my understanding that the Board of Internal Economy is supposed to have dealt with some of those things that have been raised in the letters last week. It did not get to that portion of the meeting, and there is a meeting coming up 15 April or somewhere around there. I just wondered if we should not maybe touch on those today, Mr Chairman, to see what yourself and the rest of the members think and maybe make a recommendation to the Board of Internal Economy before it either approves or turns down some of the same things that are in these letters.

The Chair: If that is the wish of the committee, sure.

Ms S. Murdock: I do not know what the members' letters were discussing.

Mrs Marland: There is a package attached to the agenda, where they have responded with ideas about things they would like.

Ms S. Murdock: Well, I did not get it.

The Chair: It was sent under separate cover, to the offices.

Mrs Marland: Oh, is that what I brought with me? You see how efficient I was --

Ms S. Murdock: You are.

Mrs Marland: Only because my staff handed it to me on my way here. But when I read some of these letters, Mr Chairman, I think it would be good if Mr Arnott's staff could go through them and respond to some of the things that are -- just as an example, Paul Klopp is asking about answering machines for his constituency office and those are already eligible to be paid for out of our constituency budgets. I am just giving that as an example. I am actually on my third answering machine, because they take a lot of beating, but I think for the sake of dealing with these recommendations from individual members, it would be easier, since the letter is to the committee, to answer them if it is something as obvious as equipment that they are already eligible to claim on their constituency budgets. It also means the member can go ahead and order it right away and know he can get on with it, because he said he wants a programmable design that they can phone in and change over the phone. That is what we all need and that is what I have and it is a legitimate expense.

So I think that where there are very direct questions that we can answer now, based on the parameters for legitimate expenses, those people could have the benefit of making those purchases.

Mrs MacKinnon: I want answering machines in the worst way. However, I want them in the constituency office, I want them up here, but they have put in some type of great big cable about this big and they tell me there is not an answering machine around that you can fit it on.

Mr H. O'Neil: You mean, in your constituency office?

Mrs MacKinnon: In the constituency offices and here.

Mr H. O'Neil: I had the same problem, because the first point here mentions about an outdated phone system in our offices, but there is a connection you can have. I do not know whether Bell has to come in or you can have somebody else come in to your constituency office and hook it up, because I just did it about six months ago.

Mrs MacKinnon: Even on these big --

Mr H. O'Neil: Yes, there is a connection that can do.

The Chair: To clear up that point, simply phone Bell and they will come out and they will put in the connection for you.

Mr H. O'Neil: I noticed several others here, whether you want to touch on them. The phone system, I think, is outdated in our constituency offices. You mentioned one reason. There are some other ones there that are mentioned. Margaret mentioned the answering machine. You can pick up a good answering machine for around $100 and it can come out of your $10,400.


I guess one of the things that was to come before the Board of Internal Economy was a computer and a printer for one of our offices, and it was not dealt with and it is coming up in the middle of April. I would love to see a recommendation come from this committee. I do not know whether it is fair or justified to ask one for each staff member. I do not think it is. I think if we have one computer and one printer for our office, that is all we should ask for at this point. I know I have bought one out of my $10,400, out of a couple of years' budgets, so if you need an extra one, there is always some way to work it half out of this year and half out of next. But I would love to see a recommendation come that we supply at least one computer and one printer and the setup that goes with it for at least one of our constituency --

The Chair: I think that actually was a recommendation, that each permanent staff person would get a computer. Whether the Board of Internal Economy follows through on that or not, I do not know.

Mrs Marland: It is my understanding that one terminal and one printer has been approved for the constituency offices.

Mr H. O'Neil: No, it is in estimate approval. It is coming up in a couple of weeks.

Mrs MacKinnon: No, it has not been approved, not for constituency offices.

Mrs Marland: Let's deal with that today, because it is the most absurd thing not to have a computer in our constituency offices.

Mrs MacKinnon: I think it is absolutely abominable.

Mrs Marland: We are dealing with constituents who have them in their homes and we are still back in the 18th century. It is not the cost of them; it is the cost of not having them. It is the cost of the paper and the inefficiency that is generated by not having a computer in 1991 in our constituency offices. If you want a motion or if Mr O'Neil wants to make a motion, I will second it.

The Chair: I think Ms Murdock wanted to ask a question here.

Ms S. Murdock: Yes, in regard to the telephone, it is very true what they are saying, because we had it transferred over and yet your answering machine is put on a separate jack. But Bell Canada does it. It is just expensive. It is just expensive. When Bell Canada comes in and does it, they charge you for a service call that is specifically geared for that change alone unless you are getting your whole phone system done.

The other things is, the finance branch and I have been having an ongoing battle in regard to the phone system. I am surprised that my letter is not included in here, because I did not realize that I was going to come here, particularly this year where we were newly elected, and I had an interim office and, as a consequence, had a phone installed, one phone, until such time as my office was built.

When it was rebuilt, there was a delay of a couple of days and the finance branch informed Bell Canada that I was getting the standard three lines, which it allowed, and it did not matter what I wanted at the time, because we had not finalized decisions with Bell. So they have now installed the old system, which is not what I requested, so I requested what I wanted. It was a $418 charge to come and replace that system, and finance branch is taking that out of my $10,400, which I am absolutely against. I am fighting that and I just want this panel to know, so I have vested interests in this.

The other thing is that I think fax lines are not included on our phone system under the present system and they should be, like point 1 under Paul Klopp. There is absolutely no reason in this day and age that we should not have fax line included on our phone systems.

Mrs Marland: At present you have to give up one of your three lines to have it.

Ms S. Murdock: That is right.

Mr H. O'Neil: Or you are charged extra.

Ms S. Murdock: Or charged extra out of your $10,400.

The other thing I wanted to say about answering machines coming out of your $10,400: It is very true you can get them cheaper at different places, but if you go out to Canadian Tire or whatever and buy your answering machine it comes out of your actual operations budget, and if you order it from the catalogue it does not come out of that budget. It comes out of -- I do not know -- the Legislative Assembly supply and services. It is a different budget. I just discovered this and it makes a difference. Do not ask me how, but the finance branch says where you order it makes a difference, so I would suggest for those people who are thinking of doing that that they consider, even though the cost in the catalogue is horrendous for what you are getting. It is a good answering machine, but $245 I think is a little outlandish.

The Chair: Could I make a suggestion to the committee here that we have one more meeting before the Board of Internal Economy, which I understand is meeting 15 April, that we set aside next week to discuss these issues and the computer issue and do it in a comprehensive way. In the meantime, we will ask the clerk and the research people to go through these letters here and remove what is already approved and get down to some of the issues we have to discuss.

Mr H. O'Neil: Could I also ask if maybe the clerk and research can have a look at what it is the Board of Internal Economy is dealing with on the 15th and what its feelings are towards -- I guess it does not really matter what its feelings are because we are going to make recommendations. I would like to know what they have on the agenda and what they are going to deal with, because some other things have been raised here right now by Sharon on this.

Ms S. Murdock: On that point, I know it was supposed to be raised at all caucus meetings, because it was certainly raised at ours, the recommendation being that there would be a computer terminal at each permanent staff person in your constituency office except the member and in your legislative office. That was going to be at the request of the Board of Internal Economy. There were a number of other things. All caucuses were supposed to be presented with that financial statement and request form.

Mr H. O'Neil: But we received a list. There were feelings that some things that were listed there would be approved and some of them would be turned down.

The Chair: Maybe it would be a suggestion that each respective party would go back to their House leader or whoever is doing these negotiations and get a sense from their party people of what is happening and bring it back as well next week.

Ms S. Murdock: Just so you know, Margaret, each caucus was presented with the financial statement or the request we were going to be asking for members' services to the Board of Internal Economy. I know our caucus was presented with it, he was saying his was, so yours probably was, but we are to go back and check to see what exactly they were requesting and what our caucus agreed with or disagreed with as the case may be for next week's meeting.

The Chair: We will set aside next week to deal with these issues and put together a comprehensive letter to go to the Board of Internal Economy for 15 April.

Mrs Marland: I am sorry because I will not be here next week, but you do not want a motion today just to deal with the computer and the printer in the constituency office?

The Chair: We can certainly entertain the motion today and incorporate that motion in the letter to the Board of Internal Economy.

Mr Owens: I think the motion would be redundant. I think the approval is going to go through, and I am 99.99% sure of that. Some of the other things on the list, as I recall: I think we decided that we were not going to take the TV and the cable installation and stuff like that, but the computers were definitely a go. That and fax machines as well were on the list.

Mr H. O'Neil: It was my understanding the fax machine would be approved for the constituency office but it would not be approved for the Queen's Park office. I guess I have some questions on that, too. Maybe it is too exorbitant to ask for a fax machine for every office. Maybe there should be one for two or three offices that are together or something like that. I know we have one fax machine to serve about eight or 10 of our offices up on the fourth floor. That is members' offices and the support staff. You go to fax something out and you may have to wait half an hour because faxes are coming in from different places. It is a real inconvenience. l think that was going to be turned down by the government, and maybe there is a happy compromise that can be --

Mr Owens: Maybe what we need to do with respect to that request is to -- I am not even sure how you would do something like this -- look at a usage study. Up on the fourth floor, how many members do we service, about four, five?

Mr Cooper: No, six.

Mr Owens: Six members upstairs. The machine is on memory because of all the stuff that has been fed into it because of delays of the incoming; we face the same kind of problem, that you stand there and wait until the memory is cleared. So, if we can look at some type of usage study to maybe -- I am not sure that I would agree with a fax for every office. I do not think you would use it.

Mrs Marland: Can I just say something fast? The thing about something like this, Steve, the example of the fax machine, is that those have not come out of the members' allowances. Currently they come out of the caucus budget. Each caucus has its budget, and it is up to the individual caucus executive director to make the decisions based on what the caucus wants. So if you want 20 fax machines for all your members, they can buy that out of their caucus budget, as can we.

I think our focus has to be on what we want to achieve for individual members' offices, and I would not go for asking for a fax machine for every individual member's office. But if my caucus is overloaded, as the example Hugh gives, then I would go to my caucus person and say, "Look, we need another fax machine down this hall," or whatever. That money is already allocated to us by the Legislative Assembly. I really think our focus, Mr Chairman, has to be on our individual offices, and particularly the constituency offices.


Mr H. O'Neil: Of course, there is another development with that, too, and that is that if the individual computers and printers are okayed for the constituency office, they have a modem, which can go back and forth and almost be used like a fax machine. So that should be taken into account, too; that may solve some of the problems.

The Chair: As I understand it, the proposal to the Board of Internal Economy was one computer for each permanent staff person, excluding the member, I think.

Mr Owens: Is there any chance, Mr Chairman, of increasing that 0.5 staff member to a whole body?

Mr H. O'Neil: Anyway, it is my feeling that the clerk and the research people can see what is on the agenda for the Board of Internal Economy and we can check with our own people back in our caucus and we can come back next week and review suggestions and see what we should look at.

Mrs Marland: Just remember that we are here for a long time, and if we do a better job the public is better served.

The Chair: A point well made. Any further discussion?

Mrs MacKinnon: Am I to understand that these answering machines are a go?

The Chair: Always have been, yes. It has to come out of your budget.

Mrs MacKinnon: Yes, I understand that. I do not mind that at all, as long as I know it is allowable.

The Chair: It is allowable. It is an allowable expense.

Mrs Marland: So are car phones. There is a letter in here about a car phone, and car phones are allowable too.

Mrs MacKinnon: They get scared about me driving around in the car and not having a car phone and no way to reach them. It is scary.

The Chair: Any further discussion on the topic?

Mrs Marland: Sorry to do this, but there is a letter in here that talks about individual television monitors at our desks in the House. I do not think I need to say any more except that I have such confidence in this committee that I am sure we would not even consider spending money on such a ridiculously frivolous item. I mean, we do not need any more television sets in this building.

The Chair: I am sure the committee will give that serious consideration.

Moving on -- everybody has the draft response in front of them. Are there any comments on that?

Ms S. Murdock: There's a spelling error.

The Chair: We will note that. A computer error I guess, Sharon.

Ms S. Murdock: Third paragraph, second line, last word.

Mrs Marland: Oh, I think I would leave out the last paragraph. You know why? Because he was discussing members' calendars. I think we will just leave out the last paragraph.

The Chair: I think he made reference as well to the federal members.

Ms S. Murdock: I thought he made reference to one of those phones.

Mrs Marland: Oh, did he?

Ms S. Murdock: Yes.

Mrs Marland: Okay. All right. Great.

The Chair: Any further business?


The Chair: We also have the suggested schedule of meetings for the committee through to May. Any comment?

Mr H. O'Neil: The only suggestion I would make on that for consideration by the committee is that we are going to look at some more freedom of information presentations. I think we are going to find that we are going to have something from that at every meeting, and we should leave ourselves some part of the agenda to deal with current issues or other things we can refer to rather than scheduling in a whole afternoon for certain hearings. Just as a suggestion.

The Chair: Okay, it is a suggestion.

Mrs Marland: Was there a subcommittee meeting today?

The Chair: There was. I was not at that subcommittee meeting. I had another event. Mr Owens, you were at that subcommittee hearing?

Mr Owens: Put the blame on me. There are other members here, Mr Chairman.

Mrs Marland: I am not suggesting that we have to have the subcommittee report at this point. I am just asking, was there a subcommittee meeting? Because, I had heard that there was and maybe after we adjourn, we could have the subcommittee report and then decide what to do with it.

I notice in looking at the schedule of meetings that we have four meetings on the freedom of information legislation and then three on members' services and facilities. I agree with the comments of Mr O'Neil that we should perhaps include both, but who are we looking at having on those four meetings on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act?

The Chair: I will ask the clerk to reply to that.

Clerk of the Committee: There were four groups that were outstanding from the two weeks of hearings in February. The committee, in addition, had spoken of inviting SkyDome representatives, possibly the minister or ministry people from Community and Social Services. In addition, I understand that the Information and Privacy Commissioner's office has prepared a response to or comments on the presentations made by all groups that have appeared to date. I am not sure that would involve an oral presentation of that response or just a delivery of a written document. I will ascertain that tomorrow. Finally, there was a thought that the committee would want to have time to discuss what it has heard to date and determine what it does next.

The Chair: Any further comments? Of course, like all scheduled meetings, it is very tentative. It can change rapidly. Any further comments?


Mrs MacKinnon: I notice on this one letter from Marion Boyd that the use of taxis is a legitimate expense in the riding. Was there any thought being given to deal with that today?

The Chair: No, not today. That is an issue for a further meeting. Are there any other items that any member wants to bring forward at this time?

Ms S. Murdock: Is it my imagination or is it cold in here? Because I am finding it very chilly. My hands and feet are freezing.

Mrs Marland: Usually it is too hot in here.

Mr H. O'Neil: We were discussing at the breakfast meeting they had this morning -- Steve and a couple of others -- were talking about the birth certificates, and I take it now that that has been pretty well resolved.

The Chair: I understand that has been resolved. The MPPs' station will continue; I think the expanded hours, if I am not mistaken, as well as the expanded facilities for our members and facilities for members for the public will as well.

Mrs MacKinnon: There was a letter that came to my desk in my office this morning.

The Chair: There should be a letter going out soon.

Mr H. O'Neil: Mr Chairman, I think it would help to have the committee send that letter. I personally would like to thank the minister for making that change.

Mrs Marland: Where are we with something as simple as having the drop-off location for dry cleaning for members?

The Chair: I was not even aware we had a --

Mrs Marland: Actually, probably some of those responses went to the Speaker when the Speaker was making overall plans for necessary changes to the building which might or might not include other facilities of the tonsorial category. The male members at present have access to tonsorial specialists and we do not. But far more major than that is, we do have --

Mr H. O'Neil: What was that service we have that you do not? I do not even know anything about it. What is that?

Mrs Marland: A barber shop. Someone in one of their letters here makes a very valid point about the fact that our banking machine only deals with withdrawals. I think that is a very legitimate question and I think the bank, which in this case happens to be the Royal Bank, is very lucky to have that machine in our building and I think the least we should do on behalf of our members is ask for a full-functioning machine in terms of a banking machine.

Also, I think we should ask for a little comer in that hall -- there is room downstairs around where the barber shop is -- to build a little kiosk type of place where we could drop off dry cleaning. When you think of what time most of us come in here in the morning and what time most of us leave, we simply do not have the personal time to do something as necessary as get to the dry cleaners very often. I think it would be great for this committee to make that recommendation, and it is not an expensive thing because it may well be that any dry cleaning company that is asked to give a tender -- if that is the requirement to go through a tender process -- could pay for the cost of erecting a little kiosk and they can pick their stuff up from here and take it to their plants two or three times a day. I think it would be a great service and many members and staff would appreciate it.

Mr Owens: I would like to make a comment with respect to the bank machine. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think the problem is one of technology, that if you have a Royal Bank card you are able to access full service. However, I have a different card, not to do any advertising, so I can only withdraw; I cannot deposit. Again, it is a technological issue that the bank is on line to give you the withdrawals, but in terms of being able to access your account at a different bank from the one we are dealing with. I do not know if the technology exists in the automatic teller machines. It is not that the Royal Bank is not wanting to provide the service; it is just technologically not feasible.

Ms S. Murdock: With respect to what Mr Owens has said, I do have a Royal Bank card and it is withdrawals only. You cannot deposit, unfortunately. I agree, there have been many times when I wished I could have done other transactions, pay bills or whatever, and could not do that. Our schedules are hectic enough that it is difficult to make it to the bank during their hours to pay your Bell Canada before they come hounding you.

The Chair: I was wondering if we could ask the clerk how we go about looking to see if we can get that machine upgraded and possibly even look at getting further machines in the building maybe from other banks, how we would go about doing that. Maybe you can come back at a further meeting with that information.

Mrs Marland: And the dry cleaners.

The Chair: And the dry cleaners. We will look at that.

Mr H. O'Neil: Since I lost my cabinet post I am thinking of taking cleaning in, so maybe I can --

The Chair: Margaret, you raised an interesting point that we may have had members write to the Speaker about services they would like to see improved or added here. I was wondering if a letter went from this committee to the Speaker outlining what we are doing here and that if he has letters from members about services if he would like to forward them to this committee for consideration.

Ms S. Murdock: Or the other thing is he may already be proceeding on some matters and it would be nice to know that we are not duplicating efforts here.

The Chair: He may like to communicate that. Any further items? We have an item to deal with in camera, so at this point I would like to go in camera.

The committee continued in camera at 1655.