Wednesday 10 April 1991

Freedom of Information And Protection of Privacy Act, 1987

Members' services and facilities

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)

Jamison, Norm (Norfolk NDP)

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South PC)

Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex NDP)

McClelland, Carman (Brampton North L)

Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East L)

O'Neil, Hugh P. (Quinte L)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre NDP)

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

Substitution: Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L) for Mr McClelland

Clerk: Arnott, Douglas

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

The committee met at 1548 in room 151.


Resuming consideration of a comprehensive review of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 1987.

The Chair: I call the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to order, seeing a quorum present. I have a notice of substitution, Dianne Poole for Carman McClelland.

There have been a number of items distributed in the last couple of days to the members of the committee, and I will ask Andrew to give us a summary of the review of the freedom of information and privacy.

Mr McNaught: I will not go through it in detail. You just got it today, I assume, entitled Review of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 1987: Summary of Submissions (up to March 31, 1991). Have they been distributed, Doug?

Clerk of the Committee: Yes.

Mr McNaught: I begin with a summary of the presentations made to the committee by the Management Board of Cabinet and the office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The FOI branch of Management Board was represented by Frank White, who is the director, and he simply outlined how the act operates and the functions of his branch. He cited some statistics on the first three years of operation, but when Mr White was asked if he had any specific recommendations he would like to make, he declined and suggested that perhaps the Chair of the Management Board would be the best person to make any recommendations on behalf of the government. So I simply outlined his presentation there, just to refresh your memories more than anything else.

The commissioner's office, as part of its presentation, brought along a number of studies in those big black binders, and I have also described those for you in the summary. The commissioner's office gave its assessment of how the act has been functioning to date from the perspective of the commissioner's office. You will recall that the commissioner's office made 44 recommendations for changes to the act. That is contained in the paper they supplied called Suggested Changes to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 1987. I have also included those recommendations in this particular summary so you have everything in one place.

The next section is the summary of recommendations on page 8. These are a summary of all the recommendations made by witnesses who have appeared before the committee or who have submitted written briefs to the clerk. You will see that after each recommendation there is an abbreviation of the group or individual that made the particular recommendation and you can refer back to the section on witnesses at the front of the summary to identify the witness who made the particular recommendation.

Now you will notice that I have simply given you the recommendations and not the reasoning behind them. You can go to the individual briefs if you want to get a further discussion of the reasons behind each recommendation. If the committee wishes, I can prepare a background memo on any particular recommendation that catches your eye or whatever and I can bring that back to you in a week or so.

I have organized the summary under what I felt were the major issues, but of course the committee might have different ideas of what the major issues are when they are drafting a report, so you are not bound by the headings I have set out here.

Just one last thing: Note that the issue of police and the news media, which figured fairly prominently during the hearings, is included in a separate section at the back under miscellaneous items. That is on page 29. Technically, it falls under the law enforcement exemption, which I referred to briefly on page 12, but I felt the committee seemed to want to devote special attention to that particular issue.

I would suggest that you just go through it. A lot of these recommendations are technical in nature and you will have to go back to the actual brief to put it in context, I guess. I understand that the commissioner's office has prepared a response to some of the recommendations that were made by witnesses and that should be ready, I think, next week some time. That would be useful to have together with this summary.

That is all I have to say about the summary.

The Chair: Any questions? I just remind committee members that during the next two weeks, we will be hearing the final witnesses that we have not had a chance to hear yet on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. They will start appearing here again next week. I understand CUPE and Ontario Public Service Employees Union are among the witnesses appearing next week. Any further comments?

Mr H. O'Neil: In other words, we can have this to have a look at it. How soon do you think we may be getting freedom-of-information people?

Mr McNaught: I think next week. Do not hold me to that, but that is what I was told by a person I know there. It was initially going to be a lot more detailed response, but I think they have decided to narrow it down quite a bit.

The Chair: Would it be the wish of the committee to have the commissioner here to answer questions in relation to his report or summary?

Mrs MacKinnon: I think it would be very helpful.

Ms S. Murdock: Would he present the summary and then we could ask him questions, or would we be given the summary and he would come at a later date?

The Chair: Hopefully we would be given the summary and then we would ask him to appear in a week or two weeks after that.

Ms S. Murdock: Actually, I should not say he, should I, because we still do not have a freedom of information and protection of privacy commissioner.

The Chair: Is that agreeable to the committee? Agreed.

I believe the clerk has some updates on some of the outstanding issues for us.


Clerk of the Committee: Last week committee members received a package of the responses to the committee's survey on what members of the House wanted to see in the way of discussion at this committee on members' services and facilities. The committee asked me to review those and see what responses or status could be presented on those this week.

Before you on your desks today is a memo from Barbara Speakman, executive director of assembly services, who was asked about the possibility of improving the services available through the banking machine in the building. She indicates that will be investigated and she will report back as quickly as she can, along with the director of finance.

The other issue raised at the committee last week, not in letters from the members, was the suggestion that there be a dry cleaning dropoff point somewhere in the building or parliamentary precinct, and apparently this was part of a previous study. Development of that issue was postponed pending further action on renovating the building and seeing what allocation of space there would be in the building, but Ms Speakman indicates there is no reason why that cannot proceed as far as a feasibility study goes.

Mr H. O'Neil: Which one of the members raised that, about the dry cleaning?

Mr McNaught: I believe it was Margaret Marland.

Mr H. O'Neil: From my own point of view, it would be handy and great to have, but when you are talking about -- maybe I should wait until Margaret arrives -- putting in space --

Mr Villeneuve: She is not going to be here.

Mr H. O'Neil: She is not? -- and somebody to run it and everything else connected with it, how much of a job is it for us to reach wherever we are staying, whether we are home or up here, and take it to some place that is handy to us? I think is one of these frills that we do not really need. I guess there is no harm in having you look at it, but if they think all the members want it, they will likely give to us, and I find a problem with it.

Mr Cooper: If I could respond to that, I think the concern of Mrs Marland is the time, if she were coming in really early in the morning and staying late in the evening. Basically, what she was looking at was just a kiosk where you could drop off; she was not talking about having it manned. You can receive personalized bags where you just drop your dry cleaning off and then it will be returned. It may not be such a space allocation that it would cause a problem.

If I could bring up one other issue right now: When we were talking about the expanded services for the banking machines, I was wondering if we could maybe do a feasibility study and see whether we could not get a full service banking outlet, say, the Province of Ontario Savings Office, but it could be used during regular banking hours and then we would not have the need of the expanded banking machines.

Mr Morin: It is right next door.

Mr Cooper: Whereabouts next door?

Mr Morin: The savings trust in the Macdonald Block.

Mr Cooper: Is it a full branch?

Mr Morin: Oh, yes, an excellent branch too. That is where I go.

Mr Cooper: So maybe we do not need the expanded services of the banking machine.

Ms S. Murdock: It sounds like we need a tour of the other buildings, since none of us knows where anything is.

Mr Morin: I will show you where it is.

Clerk of the Committee: A couple of letters to the committee dealt with constituency office services and provisions, and I discussed this with the finance director and his staff. As well, members said last week that each caucus should go back to discuss with their representatives on the board what the global allocations to be voted on at the next Board of Internal Economy meeting would be.

My understanding, from informal discussions with the director of finance, is the following: On the question of the phone system being modernized in the constituency offices to allow for the addition of extension phones, not to mention answering machines, fax machines or computer modems, I understand that is to be taken care of and provided for in the global allowance provisions for constituency offices.

Mr H. O'Neil: Could I ask what you mean when you say that?

Clerk of the Committee: It was a general conversation in view of the fact that the board meetings are in camera and I am not privy to the material that is before the board.

Mr H. O'Neil: I think Sharon raised the question last week that when some of these services are put in, it is so expensive it really cuts into our global allowance. So again, if that is what they mean, I would have some concern with it, as I think, Sharon, you mentioned something last week, too.

Ms S. Murdock: Yes, I did mention there were some costs. Now, whether the Board of Internal Economy ends up supporting that or agreeing to it, I do not know if that is going to happen. Frankly, with the way things have been going, they have been cutting back significantly in a lot of the requests from different areas, and legitimately so, I guess, in this time of recession. So I do not know whether we will get it all, because I know that has been discussed. I have talked with the finance branch numerous times about the telephone systems, that that is considered an entitlement, so I do not imagine that they would be attaching it back under our $10,400 allotment for the year.

The fax machines also: When I was speaking to Bev Biggley, she was saying that was also being considered. I think we will luck out if we get our computers, but then again, too, in this time -- maybe we can look at that next year if the recession is over, and we should be considering that anyway.

Clerk of the Committee: On the second issue raised in one letter, the provision of a more modern answering machine with the phone-in programmable design, I was told it was allowable now to purchase such, that it would come out of the member's communications budget, and the question raised was: Is the issue that there are not enough dollars there now to provide for that? But it is possible to have such.

Mr H. O'Neil: And the answering machines are not too expensive. For a fairly good one, they run around $100.


Mrs MacKinnon: Are we expected to purchase those particular machines through the Ministry of Government Services or in the stores in our riding?

Mr Cooper: Either way.

Mrs MacKinnon: My next question is: Do I go ahead and purchase them and bring my receipts?

The Chair: Yes, you would submit your receipt to the financial branch for a reimbursement or you could use the government stationery catalogue. I think there are a number of answering machines in that.

Mrs MacKinnon: Great. I know what I will do on Saturday.

Clerk of the Committee: On the third point raised, about computer workstations provided in constituency offices, again the general answer I was given was: That also is taken care of in the material before the board.

Mrs MacKinnon: What do you mean it has already been taken of? I do not understand.

Clerk of the Committee: Is to be included in --

Mrs MacKinnon: But it is not okayed yet?

Mr Owens: It is on the agenda.

The Chair: I understand it is on the agenda before the Board of Internal Economy on Monday, so we have to wait for the decision from that meeting.

Clerk of the Committee: And on the matter of a photocopier machine that would make possible two-sided copying, I was told that it is not provided for as a separate item in estimates, that such machines are provided for or arranged through supply and services, and that it is probably just a matter of speaking to the head of supply and services to arrange for getting a different model of machine.

Mr H. O'Neil: It is my understanding it would have to come out of your constituency office allotment of $10,400, but for your own information, Ellen, supply and services will go out and negotiate a contract with you for the photostat into your constituency office.

I think the one I have in the Trenton office is some $50 a month, and it is a very good photostat machine. I have two constituency offices in the other constituency office, it is my own machine I bought. But depending upon how much money you have, you know, to work with at $50, $60 to $70, you can usually rent one. I have always thought the best way to handle it was to rent it. Then they look after everything for you. Just for your own information.

Clerk of the Committee: And that completes my responses to date on the status of the members' services and facilities inquiries. I will have further responses at future meetings.

The Chair: A point of clarification here: You will be responding, in letter form, to those members who have written to the committee in relation to the information you found out?

Clerk of the Committee: Yes.

The Chair: Thank you. Is there any other issue regarding members' services and facilities that members wish to raise at this time?

Mr Villeneuve: I believe the birth certificate situation was settled, but possibly you could touch on it just to confirm what has happened. We saw the first item of correspondence from you to the registrar general people. We have not seen further correspondence, other than what we spoke of.

The Chair: I understand a letter should have gone to each member. In fact, a letter came from the minister, I think the very next day, in relation to that particular problem, and she indicated at that time that she was going to copy that letter to each member.

Mr Villeneuve: I do not recall seeing it. I do not know.

Mr Morin: Signed by the minister?

The Chair: Signed by the minister.

Mr Villeneuve: It came?

The Chair: Yes. She has agreed to continue with the service and actually, I think, upgrade the service as well for the public, and expand the hours.

Mr Morin: My assistant went through the exercise from Ottawa, and we have encountered problems again. So I do not know if you could have a latest report on how the system is now working. I am told that when they called Toronto, they were referred to -- it is Thunder Bay, is it not, where they moved? And then of course it complicated matters again, so I hope that does not happen again. Apparently, my assistant was told by the person responsible for the new services for the MPPs. So I hope it is settled; I hope it is fixed now.

The Chair: I will take that point up to the minister and get back to you. Any further issues arising out of members' services and facilities?

Mr O'Neil: I wonder if I could ask the clerk if it mentions any of the other things that are going to be discussed at the Monday night meeting besides the computer terminals. There were some other things under discussion, too, I understand.

Clerk of the Committee: I asked what would be on the agenda and I was told the estimates were still being carried over from the previous meeting.

Ms S. Murdock: I know that each of the caucuses was presented with whatever. I do not know who did it. I know part of our caucus administration was involved and that at last week's meeting we were supposed to go back and check to see what had been presented to us and what we had agreed with and disagreed with and so on. So I do not know what exactly is before the Board of Internal Economy, based on that. I guess it is the House leaders -- I do not know; who does that? -- or the caucus administrators for each caucus.

Mr O'Neil: House leaders.

Ms S. Murdock: Would it be the House leaders? Well, anyway, they would have finally ended up on an agreed package to bring before the Board of Internal Economy. I know what ours was before the three parties got together to discuss it, but I do not know what it is now. Whatever it is now is what is going to be decided on on Monday night, though, so I guess what we have to do is talk to our House leader and find out what the final bottom line was.

Does that answer your question?

Mr O'Neil: Well, when we were talking about the computer workstation, you had maybe mentioned that you did not know whether for sure that would be okayed.

Ms S. Murdock: Initially, on the one that was presented to us -- and we said this last week -- the proposal was that we were going to get a computer terminal at each permanent employee's desk. Now, in my constituency office, for instance, that would be three, and that is pretty pricey. Also, not all constituency offices would have three people. Some might only have one and others might have two, so it would be unfairly distributed among the members. That is number one.

Number two is the cost at this time. The ones we have,

I think, are about $5,000 apiece. You take 130 members and it is a lot of money at this time. So I do not know. I am sure that was discussed, because it certainly was discussed by our people and I can imagine that it was discussed by yours, and I imagine it ended up not being as high as what we had originally asked for.

Mr O'Neil: The presentation we had said that at first a workstation will be added for constituency offices, which included computer furniture, modems, training software and a laser printer, so it would be one per constituency.

Ms S. Murdock: You need one in this day and age, there is no question, but it would probably be very greedy in a recessionary period to be asking for more.

Mr O'Neil: My personal feeling is that if we were to get one we would be very happy with that and it would really help us out.

Ms S. Murdock: It is true.

The Chair: I understand that Margaret Marland wanted to present a motion in relation to having at least one computer terminal in each constituency office.

Ms S. Murdock: But it is not up to us, Mr Chair. We can vote and make all kinds of motions if we want, but the reality is that what the Board of Internal Economy says on Monday is what we end up getting.

The Chair: This committee can recommend and advise.

Ms S. Murdock: Yes, we can recommend. That is true.

Mr O'Neil: It was also my understanding that a second workstation would be added to our Queen's Park offices. We each have one now. It is my understanding that there would be a second one added to Queen's Park, but only one per constituency.

The Chair: Any further discussion? Any other items members wish to raise in the members' services and facilities?

Mrs MacKinnon: I do not even know if this falls under our jurisdiction or not, but I will soon learn. The little tuck shop beside the legislative dining room -- is there any way we can get that open again? It is so handy to get a card.

Mr Morin: Do you know the story of what happened exactly?

Mrs MacKinnon: I heard that somebody had a very severe heart attack.

Mr Morin: No, the company that had the responsibility of running the shop decided it did not want it any more. They just closed the shop and they did not tell the Speaker. That was it.

I believe the Speaker has this under control now and -- did you say it was open today?

Mr Villeneuve: I saw them putting stuff in there yesterday.

Mr Morin: It is under new management now. The blind person who was responsible -- I think he had a seeing eye dog also -- has his job back, too. That is my understanding.

Mrs MacKinnon: Oh, that is good. I have missed it.

Mr Morin: I heard this. I think it was on radio.

Mr Frankford: There was a radio interview with the Speaker about this.

The Chair: Any other items members wish to bring before the committee? We have an item that we wish to go in camera to discuss.

The committee continued in camera at 1611.