Wednesday 13 May 1992

Congratulatory messages

Barbara Speakman, David Girvin



*Chair / Président: Duignan, Noel (Halton North/-Nord ND)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Farnan, Mike (Cambridge ND)

*Cooper, Mike (Kitchener-Wilmot ND)

Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings/Prince Edward-Lennox-Hastings-Sud ND)

*Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC)

*Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND)

*McClelland, Carman (Brampton North/-Nord L)

*Mills, Gordon (Durham East/-Est ND)

Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East/-Est L)

*Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*Sullivan, Barbara (Halton Centre L)

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

Substitutions / Membres remplaçants:

*White, Drummond (Durham Centre ND) for Mr Johnson

*In attendance / présents

Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas

Staff / Personnel: Yeager, Lewis, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1541 in room 151.


The Chair (Mr Noel Duignan): Seeing a quorum present, I call the meeting to order. The first item on the agenda today is a request filed with this committee before last Christmas dealing with the scroll services provided by the Ministry of Government Services. We have a number of spokespeople here from the Office of the Assembly and from the Ministry of Government Services to give us their points of view on the request.


The Chair: I would like to call forward first from the Office of the Assembly, Barbara Speakman, the executive director of assembly services.

Mrs Barbara Speakman: Just by way of introduction of what this item is, the Ministry of Government Services, as you know, has for many years provided the government's official scrolls that you all use to commemorate various events and anniversaries. Originally the ministry had been looking at some ideas for cost cutting, but it now tells me that today it just wants to discuss the framing of those scrolls, because apparently Mr Wilson has indicated he does not wish to change the eligibility criteria from what it is currently, so that doesn't become an issue.

Interjection: Who's Wilson?

Mrs Speakman: The Minister of Government Services.

There is one other item that Carman McClelland brought up to me and that is the item I would like to discuss after the Ministry of Government Services has completed its presentation. So I'll it hand over to the Ministry of Government Services, David Girvin, who is the assistant deputy minister of supply and services.

Mr David Girvin: Thank you, Barbara. Thank you, members.

Supply and services has approximately 30 businesses, one of which is scrolls. We recognize it is a sensitive area and you're our major client, in terms of all parties, as members of the Legislature.

We have responsibility for issuing approximately 8,000 official scrolls: orders in council, justices of the peace, a variety of the infrastructure with the Attorney General and other official appointments.

In addition to that, we do a little under 20,000 congratulatory scrolls, of which 80% is requested by the members or the members' constituency offices and the remaining 20% is initiated by families. Only 5% of those are not referred by MPPs, so you're really looking at all parties and all members referring some 95% of the 19,000 congratulatory scrolls. In light of the strong interest in terms of the members about any potential changes, we deemed it appropriate that we come to an all-party committee in terms of direction on any potential changes.

The first overhead or slide there shows the breakdown in terms of what makes up congratulatory scrolls in terms of wedding anniversaries and birthdays, and the total, as I mentioned, is some 19,283.

The issue we're dealing with looks at some cost constraint on the package mix. There are some guidelines that have been determined over the years by all-party committees about who gets what in terms of a 50th anniversary versus a 40th anniversary and in terms of different types of framing versus folders and what that particular mix is.

Really the bottom line today, members, is that we're talking of approximately $7 a gold frame that we'll distribute versus the folder, which we use in a certain percentage of these invitations at the present time. Some 57% are framed in terms of the existing criteria that are there and some 43% in terms of folders.

We're talking about costs and aesthetics in terms of input from the members. That's really the issue. We're here to get some input and not make any unilateral decisions in terms of constraints and budget considerations in terms of MGS. Our minister was certainly interested in making certain that we had touched base, so we had written to the Speaker about this particular issue in December and we welcome an opportunity for some input today.

The Chair: Thank you. Barbara, there's an issue you wanted to come back on, or did you want to deal with it later?

Mrs Speakman: Well, it is a separate issue, and it's to do with Mr McClelland's request that the assembly look at providing a scroll that members could use, rather than a government-initiated scroll, for similar kinds of things in their own ridings, and that we could perhaps use some of the artwork that already exists within MGS without going outside and developing and redesigning and so on. These would be scrolls the members would purchase for their own use with their own signature and so on. It really was Mr McClelland's item and can be dealt with after this one.

The Chair: Okay. Questions.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Just on the last point, Barbara, there is a scroll that we purchase -- isn't it from government stationery? It's pre-printed with a blue -- I should get one from my office.


Mrs Marland: No, it isn't. I'll go and get one.

I was just sitting here thinking that it's not easy to speak in this committee knowing that your comments are going to appear in Frank magazine. The people who pick up the Hansard and selectively print it in Frank magazine and other editorials around the province don't have the benefit of the full committee hearing, so I'm going to proceed the way I always have without the paranoia.

When somebody else starts speaking, I'll go and phone and get a copy of the scroll I use. It is a scroll form. We use the large, special font on our terminals to put in any kind of font style, in any size, to put the name in and then I write the content on the scroll. They're very well received and they are negligible in cost. It's just a stationery cost and certainly they are available now.

To the first question about the two formats of scroll you've given us to look at this afternoon, I remember when we went to this framed format from those awful things we used to give out on the black, painted board with the Plexiglas cover and the four screw things in the corner. They were very heavy and ugly and cumbersome and horrible. By the time you trekked around with a dozen on a Saturday, it wasn't something you were glad to make a presentation of.

However, I was very pleased when MGS came up with this format. I guess anything we members do on any side of the House always has a cost factor. We have to decide, I suppose, whether we do something like this at the price that's mentioned in our briefing note or we do something like this.


As far as I'm concerned, I don't think there's any comparison if you're the recipient. If we don't care about how convenient or possible it might be for an elderly person to run out and buy a frame and frame it -- I mean, this isn't really an alternative to hanging it on the wall. I know that's what this is designed for. If we're very sincere about recognizing the citizens of Ontario with a congratulatory scroll for any occasion, it makes sense to me that we do it properly. If we can't afford to do it properly, then we'd be better not to do it at all, as far as I'm concerned. If the numbers are increasing and the real question is, should we continue -- is the real question, because the numbers are continuing, do we continue with A or B?

Mr Girvin: There are a variety of options. We were trying to deal with the ongoing constraint issue and took a fairly minimal approach. We weren't into zero-based budgeting about looking at scrolls themselves in terms of those particular options, but certainly if the committee would so direct us, we could come back and present different options, if that was the consensus in this committee. We were talking about something that had an impact immediately of some $37,000 on an annual basis. We're looking for some level of direction with the users, as I said at the outset. Obviously we're into printing and dealing with a variety of other order-in-council items. That continued to be part of the mandate. You're the basic client and there are some quid pro quos with regard to cost.

Mrs Marland: Is it $37,000 that it costs us for these 19,000 scrolls?

Mr Girvin: What we're talking about is taking the grid and the framework that's been set for the gold frames as criteria and implementing folders across the board at the incremental saving of $4 a pop. That works out to $37,000.

Mrs Marland: Okay. I think we should call these metal frames, not gold frames, if I may.

Mr Girvin: Fine.

Mrs Marland: Only because --

The Chair: It could end up in Frank magazine again.

Mrs Marland: It could end up anywhere. It's as much, sir, for your protection as ours, because we're all in this together.

With regard to these gold-coloured metal frames, we're saying that if we go from this format to the plastic folder we're going to save $37,000.

Mr Girvin: That's correct.

Mrs Marland: So the actual scroll itself, the printing of it, has a base cost of X amount.

Mr Girvin: Yes.

Mrs Marland: All I can say in response to that question is that when I print up the scrolls -- I will go and get a copy off on my computer at no cost -- because the government doesn't supply me with the frames for the ones that I choose to do in my own riding, I go out and buy an 8 by 10 frame. I can buy a gold- or silver-coloured metal frame for usually somewhere between $2.98 and $3.49 at drugstores, large chain stores and so forth. That's what we do. I don't want to give the name of the store, because I always buy them at the same store as a matter of fact, but it is a large chain.

My frame might not be quite as nice as this, but what I'm wondering is, if I can buy them without any discount at a retail outlet for $3, why is it that this costs $7 for the government?

Mr Girvin: How many of these do we do a year?

Mr Gary Browne: We do about 9,000 of the frames and about 7,000 of the folders a year.

Mr Girvin: We use our request for proposal and we tender it in terms of that particular item on an 8 1/2 by 11. The standards and specs that we're dealing with -- I'm going from memory, I was not in the Ministry of Government Services at the time, but I think it was in 1989 that an all-party committee revised the guidelines and we're following those instructions. That's why we're back here today.

As for the pricing structure, the quality and the size were determined by the all-party committee and that's how we do the tender. I would think on those volumes you would be looking at a fairly substantial wholesale rate.

Mrs Marland: Do you know what the unit cost for this frame is?

Mr Browne: It is $7.

Mrs Marland: It is $7. Then, in my opinion, the question isn't about doing away with the frame and substituting it by the plastic packaging folder. Instead I think it's changing the requirement for the frame, whatever the specs were, and just getting another frame that costs less. I wish I had one here because I always have a stock of them in the constituency office. My $3 frames are quite acceptable to make a presentation.

Mr Girvin: I can understand that to a committee of this size it might appear to be a small point and we're really here out of adherence to the interest in this. This would be a decision internally if it were some other service.

If somebody is giving me a direction in terms of tendering or aesthetics, we're flexible. You're the major client. I would like some discussion about the quid pro quo in terms of cost, but that's part of the reason we're here. I am not a user and neither are other civil servants. It's your constituents who are. So if there is somebody else who wishes to give direction in terms of that, we're open to input.

Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): Only last Sunday I had the pleasure of delivering one of these scrolls to a couple who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They had all their family there and the usual cakes and sandwiches etc and it was a really nice occasion for a very nice couple.

When I was there some memento was delivered from the Prime Minister of Canada in a brown envelope. There was a memento there from the Governor General of Canada, the Honourable Ray Hnatyshyn. There was also the local reeve there with his pathetic presentation from the municipality.

The family of this couple came across to me and, as these folks usually do, they commented about the thought and what a nice presentation it was on behalf of the government. I get up there and I say, "I'm here to present this to you on behalf of the Premier of Ontario and the government of Ontario," and I'm included in that government. I take some sort of pride in doing that.

Some time back under another government, when we were married 40 years my wife and I received some memento from the provincial government and I can tell you quite honestly I don't know where that memento is any more, because I'm not going to run around and buy a frame for it, nor are elderly people, as Margaret said, going to run around and buy frames. When someone reaches one of these milestones it's significant in their life and I think that we as a government should recognize that.

I'm not really keen on going to one of the department stores. I've tried it because I do scrolls on my computer for Girl Guides and things like that. Then I poke them into these little frames which are very flimsy. The glass is always loose, the frame seems to be loose at the ends, and for $3 or $4 I'd defy anyone to get a frame of any substance that you could present to anybody, because you just can't buy them.


In the private market, to get a frame that approaches some sort of standard you'd want as a bearer of this scroll to a couple, you're looking at $10 or $12. This is a very professional frame, very well put together and it certainly makes me feel good when I present it.

There's no one here more careful with a dollar than I am -- my colleagues will attest to that -- but when we look at the overall picture of government and what we spend and all we do, I think we are kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel when we're trying to save on a few frames to people who hang them with pride in their living rooms until they die.

My idea is that perhaps we should not issue the frame type of scroll to people celebrating an anniversary between 40 and 49 years, but when someone has been married 50 years or when someone has been on this earth 80 years and is still alive and well. Particularly when someone's been on this earth 90 years and more, surely to goodness somewhere we can present a scroll that is really nice and has some meaning to it, rather than a frame, whatever.

If we reduce the price we're going to reduce the quality and that's what I'm afraid of. I suggest we could save considerable money by presenting the plastic folders up to 49 years of the anniversaries etc, and then we could stick to the original that we're doing now for folks celebrating their 80th birthday and on and their 50th anniversary and on. I think that is a pretty fair compromise.

I know government is supposed to be run lean and mean, but really the amount we're trying to save here is like Scrooge in the overall big picture of running government. With that I'll close my comments, Mr Chair.

Mr Girvin: Could I respond? Thank you very much. As you can see, I did show some smarts and discretion by not getting into criteria. I knew that would provoke a lot of discussion so I only stayed with the one item, and that was just in terms of scrolls and frames.

With regard to the criteria about who gets a gold-looking frame and who gets a scroll with a folder, that was hammered out in 1989 in a similar committee. I'm quite happy, as a survivor, to stay with the status quo. Certain people are eligible, and if it's a 50th wedding, 60th, 90th birthday or 100, then there is this frame. As I understand it, there are a variety of other criteria in terms of smaller numbers for wedding anniversaries. We are prepared to stay with the status quo in terms of what we're playing with. We were looking for some direction in terms of potential costs, say, being on what has already been decided.

I don't think, with a fairly large budget and a lot of decisions, that $37,000 -- obviously I wouldn't be coming to committees or whatever if I didn't think it wasn't a sensitive arena in terms of all of the members, so I expected some discussion. I am not that naïve. I would like to stay, sir, with the status quo as far as criteria are concerned, unless somebody else has a cost-saving initiative I can deal with.

Mr Mike Farnan (Cambridge): First of all, I would want to commend the minister for initiating this restraint.

This is a small budget item, but often this is very symbolic. The fact that ministers are examining their budgets very carefully gives me greater confidence in my cabinet colleagues and in the approach of the government to fiscal restraint. The member for Frontenac-Addington, the honourable minister, with whom I had the pleasure of working, I know to be a man who is extremely conscious and extremely careful in the manner in which spending would take place under his ministry.

I've had letters from seniors who have been grateful for having received what is in effect a very beautiful plaque. But the letters have also gone on to say, "But we wonder why you're sending this to us at this time, when you're telling us that we're in a time of restraint." So the senior who's out there --

Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): How many thousands of letters did you say?

Mr Farnan: No, I said I've had letters, and I can attest to at least three.

Mrs Marland: They only get them by being requested by their families.

Mr Farnan: No, there are plaques that are sent out, indeed, through some of the seniors' homes, that are requested automatically through seniors' homes. Even when an individual's family hasn't requested it, the home itself may request it, so I would correct the member on that point.

The point I am making is this, that when you look at the situation, I think you can say to yourself, "Well, it's a $7 frame," as opposed to a frame of this nature, which I think is quite beautiful, quite presentable and which also provides for an individual member to place a congratulatory certificate from the member himself in his own riding. So what you have are duplicate congratulations, one from the province and one from the member, in a nice folder for which I believe the cost is somewhere in the region of $3.

We should be very careful, I think, in giving weight simply to the manner in which something is presented. I agree that it should not be presented in a shoddy manner. I certainly am not comfortable at all when the presentations of other levels of government, whether it be federal, provincial or municipal, would be referred to as a pathetic presentation from the municipality. The fact that the municipality has recognized this individual's significant date in his life is very important, as is the fact that the mayor or an alderman has gone forward and brought a certificate. But it also might say to the taxpayers that that mayor or municipality is being careful in the manner in which funds are dispensed.

I do agree that we should look at the presentation. I think this format of presentation is some $4 in savings on each presentation that's made, yet it is a very beautiful presentation. I certainly am not at all embarrassed to go to a senior citizen or a couple who is celebrating an anniversary with a scroll in something as beautiful as this.


I would come back to not just being sensitive to members. I think all of our members want to be sensitive to the needs of seniors, people who have lived a long and fruitful life. But what is it that they want?

I think they look to us in government to legislate services that will give them some security in their old age, some sense of security in terms of services. I don't think that wrapping up a more expensive certificate is what gives them that security. I think what gives the senior that security is a government that is concerned about fiscal restraint. It's not a big savings, but I think any senior or any couple at 40 years or 50 years of marriage, whatever -- the rationale is that this government simply is presenting you with a very nice certificate. I don't think anybody would question it.

On this particular issue, I would be reluctant for this committee today simply to endorse the proposal that's before us. I certainly support the proposal that's before us. I think the minister is being sensitive to the individuals receiving the material. The plaques will be presented very well. But the minister is also saying to all of us on all sides of the House, "My job as minister is to be fiscally responsible, and I want your support."

I think it would make some sense for us to go back to our caucuses. There seems to be some division of thought on this, and I really think the members should look at it. But certainly I will, at the appropriate time, suggest that we take a week to reflect on this matter and to receive input from our colleagues. I think that's important. I don't think we should be simply saying, "This is what we're going to do." I think the minister has come forward with a good proposal, and I think we can come back next week and make a decision and a recommendation.

Mr Stephen Owens (Scarborough Centre): Being a person who has also appeared in the illustrious pages of Frank magazine on two occasions and in two issues, I'm wondering how they're going to report the flights of oratory that have taken place on the issue of framing today.

In terms of the constituents I serve, and I have a high proportion of seniors in my riding of Scarborough Centre, they are certainly concerned about how their dollars are spent. I think the fact that they are receiving something from the government is just as important as how it's packaged. I'm certainly not averse to moving to the folder package. Perhaps the suggestion that my colleague has made with respect to going back to our caucuses has some merit.

I have two questions. I am going to assume that you have a number of these gold frames left in stock. How long would it take to implement the decision, and would that affect the cost savings projected?

Mr Girvin: Three months' supply, I understand.

Mr Owens: In terms of the folders themselves, are they available for purchase by members for our own personal use?

Mr Girvin: Not to date. But much the same as -- Barbara Speakman's issue that she was addressing to the Chair and clerk earlier was the option about paper or other things.

The part of the structure that you're playing with, obviously on something that is small in a dollar sense but important in light of the dialogue that we've had this afternoon, is that because it is government greetings, it comes from the Ministry of Government Services as opposed to the Legislature itself, even though 95% of the requests are done through MPPs.

The easiest solution obviously would be to have it as part of the Legislature and then you could deal with the issue of cost and caucus and other considerations. But the structure, that the Ministry of Government Services is involved in this item, is because the greetings are from the Premier, as I understand it, even though it is a service primarily to the members of the Legislature. Much in the same way if, for example, one were dealing with a printing issue of this we would probably tender, but there would be some sort of arrangement in which you would have a portion if the Legislature were buying something directly.

The reason you would separate it is that on a cost recovery basis we spend the money. The money goes into the consolidated revenue fund in terms of the Financial Administration Act and therefore we're out of pocket on that. That's just a technical detail that doesn't allow for a recovery from the Legislature.

Mr Owens: So then in terms of our role here today, the polite subtext I hear is that the minister has essentially made a decision with respect to this issue and that we are simply here discussing it in an advisory manner rather than a decision-making capacity -- just so I understand.

Mr Girvin: Could you repeat that question, please?

Mr Owens: In terms of the comments you've just made, we're here to act in an advisory capacity rather than in a decision-making capacity, that the decision has been made to move?

Mr Girvin: No, the decision has not been made. Obviously, if a decision such as this were within the parameters of dealing with intergovernmental departments, it would have been made and we wouldn't be dealing with caucuses or all-party committees. But in light of your being the client base, we deemed it to be propitious that we deal with an all-party committee.

So you're more than an advisory committee, and I think Mr Wilson would take the input more than just in terms of advisory. I can make a determination on the basis of input from the Chair and his colleagues about where we're at on that, depending on whether there's any closure or conclusion. Certainly, since 95% of these are requested or streamed through constituency offices, we will take that into heavy consideration in terms of decision-making.

Mrs Sullivan: I sat on this committee in the last Parliament when this issue was covered thoroughly. The question of not only the proportion of framed documents but the nature of the documents themselves was before the committee, and there was some study and considerable discussion from all parties and from all caucuses.

At that time the current decision and the current status were concurred in and agreed to, and it seems to me the approach that was determined at the time, which in fact lowered the cost of the frames, changed the cost from the previous materials that were used, has been a workable one.

In my view, the status quo is the appropriate approach. I understand why Mr Girvin is here. He is looking for some cost savings within his ministry. That's his job. Our job, it seems to me, is to ensure that the needs of our constituents and the recognition that is requested for our constituents are protected.

The traditional route for these celebratory greetings has been via the member. This is comparable to what is done in every single province of Canada and at the federal level, although the federal level does not use the plastic covers. I think one other province uses the plastic covers -- Alberta. They are large and green and they are more difficult to handle than these. But it seems to me that the compromise that was made during the last Parliament was the appropriate one and the view of my caucus would be that the current situation stay.


Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): I think we've had a thorough discussion of this issue and we certainly have seen the pros and cons. The alternative methods, the criteria, we haven't discussed in detail, but I'm sure they're appropriate criteria.

These are very difficult times. Frankly, I think the plastic file folders are very attractive and would look very nice upon a mantelpiece. The opportunity still exists, though, to vote whichever way you wish on this issue. I think it's incumbent upon us in these difficult times to look upon all areas of savings, and therefore I would move that the committee endorse the minister's advice and suggestion.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr White. Any further discussion? Margaret.

Mrs Marland: Before we accept that as a motion, I didn't hear that as advice from the minister through his deputy. I heard it as information for us to discuss, and I'd like to be very clear: Is it your recommendation, Mr Deputy, or are you simply doing what I heard you say, which was bringing the information for us to make a choice?

Mr Girvin: Obviously, every week we're involved in a series of constraint exercises, so if you have 30 businesses and you're looking at certain components of this, you are looking at any opportunities.

This one is quite small obviously; it has a lot of sensitivity which has been expressed this afternoon, and we knew it would. Therefore, we are looking for advice from this particular committee and I would be interested in some form of a recommendation about what you think we should do.

Obviously, I don't believe that a department or anything else is going to win or fall on the bottom line of this particular change, but it is something that does have some cost savings and we feel we have a responsibility to bring it to the users for some direction.

I would appreciate some direction from this committee and then I would bring that back to my minister in terms of how we proceed. Certainly he is more than aware that it is a sensitive issue in constituencies and he has to deal with the tradeoff of constraints and serving the public and constituents the same as all members.

Mrs Marland: I respect what the Minister of Government Services is trying to do. He's trying to save money, and I respect that and I think every minister in this government should be trying to save money. But I think what we have here is an unfortunate situation where obviously either all the ministers sit at the same cabinet table and don't play the same tune, or they don't choose to play or hear the same music.

It's very interesting to have this recommendation or information brought to us from this particular ministry at the same time that another ministry, namely, the Ministry of Culture and Communications, chose to spend $3,300 to fly Margaret Atwood from Paris to Ontario to pick up a $12,000 cheque for her book award. If we're going to be very sincere about making cuts in our award system and our system of recognizing Ontario citizens, then we'd better be consistent, because in the case of Margaret Atwood, who happens to be probably one of the wealthiest writers we have in Canada, never mind Ontario, and who resides in Ontario most of the time, in that particular instance the award ceremony could have been held at a time when she was in Ontario. However, it was arranged when she happened to be living in Paris for a few weeks.

I'm simply saying to this government that if it wants to demonstrate restraint, then why doesn't it demonstrate restraint? Where is this kind of cutting going to end? If we choose not to recognize our senior citizens -- who, by the time they've been married 40 years, I guess they are -- and if we choose to start cutting this stuff out, then I have to wonder what's next. Are we going to cut out the Ontario Achievement Awards, the Order of Ontario medal, the recognition for volunteerism which is done by every government, the disabled awards that are coming up on June 4? We just did the volunteer awards about two weeks ago.

We can cut if we want to. If our priority is that we don't recognize excellence, we don't recognize volunteerism, we don't recognize anybody for anything, then be that as it may, but I don't want to be part of that kind of Ontario. I want to be part of a province that decides there is merit in recognizing our citizens.

If we're looking for this amount of money, which works out to about one third of a cent on the population of 10 million people in this province, then maybe we could look at some of the real wastage in this government. If you want to make a simple comparison, some expensive receptions might be interesting to look at. We could look at any ministry and still find the government having expensive receptions and parties. I'm sorry, the facts are there. I don't have the time or the staff to do the research, but I'm sure there are people who would be willing to do that.

If we're going to decide that we're going to start to nickel-and-dime our senior citizens in this province, who, as far as I'm concerned, deserve this scroll recognition of an important milestone in their lives -- and I ask you, Mr Chairman, what is the difference between the couple who has been married 40 years or 50 years and a senior who is celebrating his 90th birthday or his 80th birthday? I think we give one at 80 and one at 90, then 95 and 100.

What is the difference between recognizing those milestones in their lives, which for them are significant? If they are still fortunate enough to have families around, it's a very significant, happy occasion for their families. What is the difference between doing that and giving a $12,000 book award to someone who is already a wealthy writer in Canada? I mean, who are we going to recognize? Are we only going to recognize those people who are already élite, who already have money, and decide we can't afford to do this scroll presentation that we're discussing here this afternoon properly?

If we can't afford to do it properly, then I suppose we might as well discontinue it. But I think the ludicrous suggestion that you put this plastic folder up on your mantelpiece -- I mean, really that's just a prize. As far as I'm concerned, I feel the cost of the frame doesn't have to be what it is. I gave an example earlier of a frame that I buy for less than half the price of this, and I'm not buying it at a bulk price. I notice also that this has plastic in it and it's probably more expensive than glass. I don't know about that, but it's possible.

I'm simply saying that if you really want to start attacking a recognition of our seniors, who nobody will ever see at a posh government reception in this building having sandwiches and sometimes wine, I might say, if we think it's fine to -- I was at the volunteer awards two weeks ago in the Lieutenant Governor's suite, and don't let us be mistaken here. The Lieutenant Governor hosts the reception for the volunteer awards for this province which I totally endorse. But at that reception, there was wine served, a very elegant refreshment which is always served in the Lieutenant Governor's suite, and which is totally paid for by the people of this province the same way these scrolls are paid for.

All I'm saying is, these scrolls are just as important in the lives of these individuals who may never, ever be eligible for any other kind of recognition in their whole lives. Goodness knows, isn't 40 or 50 or 60 years of marriage worth recognizing? I think so. For the people whom we recognize on these other special occasions such as the disabled awards and I've mentioned the volunteer awards, the community action awards -- I don't know how many awards we give out in a year in the big category where the people get invited into these hallowed halls and are -- I wouldn't say wined and dined, but they are given a very nice reception.


The cost of one of those events would possibly outstrip the cost of the differential that's been brought to us this afternoon. I'm not criticizing the ministry for bringing this. This is one ministry that has brought a question that I agree, Mr Girvin, is a decision that has to be made by the members. I respect you for bringing it here for that reason. But what I'm hearing is, "Let's go back and talk to our caucuses." Listen, folks, we went back and talked to our caucuses about another matter. You don't have that short a memory. Talking to our caucuses and coming back with a full endorsement -- we find out whether that works. If you want to go back and discuss it with your caucus, fine. That's your choice.

I'm simply saying that if this is where we're going to start cutting, I would rather see us cut some of the big-dollar items like a $12,000 book award for one individual than cut out 20,000 citizens of Ontario who have enjoyed for the most part -- Mr Farnan mentioned two or three letters he'd had. But if we're looking at 19,000 recipients of these scrolls which become family heirlooms for those families, if that's the kind of Ontario you want to be part of -- if anybody on this committee or anyone in your caucus wants to vote to discontinue these or reduce the style of presentation, as far as I'm concerned, if you're going to start making it a cheap presentation in a plastic folder, then I think if you can't do it properly, I don't see any point in doing it at all.

If that's what you want to do for these people who are in that age group that has supported many, many millions of dollars of programs in this province through their taxes for all the years they've paid taxes, and we're saying at the end, "We can't afford a $3 frame for their scrolls," I will not be a part of it because that's not my vision for Ontario and it's not how I feel about the seniors who have given their lives and their blood to this province.

The Chair: We have developed a long list of speakers again.

Mrs Marland: I'm sorry, I hope you realize that this form I sent around is the one I use in my office; it is very negligible in cost for your personal greetings.

Mr Mills: I was always under the impression that the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly was strictly non-partisan and that was the nice thing about it. I'm rather alarmed at Margaret going on about it. But I do agree with her in quite a few things she said. I think basically that the seniors I've presented these scrolls to cross all party lines. Without exception, they were very, very pleased. I think we're honouring the ordinary people of Ontario and that -- dare I say it? I get caught up on everything I say, but I believe in speaking the truth at all times -- it's a slight if you reduce the quality of what we're doing in reference to their contribution to Ontario.

I would just like to ask the deputy a question. Perhaps I didn't understand it, but my suggestion that we use the frames for certain categories: Are you saying to me, sir, that's in effect now? I didn't quite get what was going on.

Mr Girvin: First of all, I'd like to clarify that I'm not the deputy minister, but thank you anyway. What I was --

Mr Mills: Margaret called you the deputy and I thought she knew.

Mr Girvin: No, but thank you.

If the all-party committee does make those decisions, maybe that might be an easier decision than the one we're dealing with here. I wouldn't like to become the archivist or the historian of scrolls. But as I understand it, in 1987 a decision was taken by a comparable group and it was agreed that the so-called plastic frames that have been discussed today should be introduced.

In 1989 it was decided, as one of the speakers mentioned, that there should be certain criteria and an upgrading of frames relative to a 50th wedding anniversary etc. As I understand it, there was a rather extensive discussion about working on that matrix and framework and all parties agreed that if you had a 55th wedding anniversary, you would get an X frame. We are being wise enough not to open that up from our perspective. We can always adhere to any direction from the Chair of the committee. There is a framework that's in place, sir, that was agreed to in 1989, and neither the minister nor the civil servants who have to implement this are suggesting that we change that framework at this time.

That's why I was making reference to your previous comments, and in terms of the comments about the "plastic" frames, it was agreed that those plastic frames in 1989 would be used for certain birthdays and certain anniversaries. There was all-party agreement. We are not that masochistic that we thought we would open up the guidelines again right at the moment in terms of --

Interjection: Good morning, Vietnam.

Mr Mills: I rest my case because I don't intend to get involved in anything like that.

Mr White: First off, in regard to the motion which I have put before us, I refer my colleague Ms Marland to the letter or the memorandum to Noel Duignan. If you read the title of the memorandum, it says "Proposal for cost savings." I believe when I stated my motion I said "advice" or "suggestion." I'm sure the clerk would agree with me that the intent is reflected in the letter and in the background documentation we have, whether it's advice, suggestion, proposal. I think they are equivalent words. I would suggest the motion is a valid one and should stand.

In regard to the issues which the member brought up, I don't feel that the volunteers reception or that travel arrangements for Canada's foremost and indeed one might say North America's foremost writers are relevant. When we are looking at a specific item, we're looking at how savings can be achieved. If we had before us the budget for the Lieutenant Governor's reception for volunteers we could examine that. We do not. If we had before us the Minister of Culture and Communications' budget we could examine that, we could suggest that savings could be made. We do not have those things before us. We cannot make those suggestions.

I think to assault the volunteers of our province who have put in countless thousands of hours, to assault the very --

Mrs Marland: On a point of privilege, Mr Chair: In fairness, Mr White is not even taking what I said out of context, he's saying something totally different and attributing it to me. Fortunately we not only have written Hansard, we have a visual Hansard which will prove that I totally endorsed the recognition of volunteers and all the other awards that currently exist in Ontario. That was not the point of my debate, and I think my privilege in Mr White's comments has been violated, Mr Chairman.


The Chair: Thank you, Margaret. Mr White, I remind you that this committee has always operated on a very non-partisan basis here and that we have always tempered our arguments in that manner.

Mr White: Just as my colleague Mr Mills suggested, that's quite the case.

Anyway, the issue of the merit of the canapés at the reception or the budget for the canapés, those kinds of issues, I don't think are things which are before us. Instead we have before us a relatively small item in the grand scale of things. Unlike my colleague the member for Durham East, I think that when I go to someone's reception, when I make a presentation, a fine presentation as that would be, that is what has real merit and that is what people will remember as well.

The issue of the frame of course is something. If I thought a metal frame were significant, I could purchase it from my global budget, as could any other member. But regardless of the arguments for and against, the suggestion was brought up prior to my motion that this issue be referred back to people's caucuses so that members in all caucuses could have the opportunity of their input. So despite having made the motion, I would like to move deferral of that for two weeks, I guess it would be.

The Chair: We have a couple of first-time speakers here and maybe we'd let them a shot first. Carman, do you wish to participate?

Mr Carman McClelland (Brampton North): I apologize for coming late. I did not realize there was a motion on the floor specifically. What I'm speaking to may or may not have any direct bearing on the motion. I'm in your hands, if you allow me to proceed. I don't want to get things out of order here.

I want to ask just two questions in terms of information. Regardless of how many scrolls we use and how they're handled and so on, I want to make two inquiries. I understand the production of this particular blank is contracted by the Ministry of Government Services in some considerable bulk, and as well that just the frame itself is purchased at a cost price of $7 per unit. The extent that a number of MPPs use scrolls in their own ridings for a variety of things is a case in point.

I was just speaking with Ms Speakman a moment ago. This week there'll be two or three Girl Guides who will receive the highest achievement award available, the Canada Cord, the all-round Canada Cord, and I will present them with the scroll. My question, as the local MPP, that flows from that is what arrangements, if any, could be made whereby the Office of the Assembly could perhaps purchase these in bulk on a buyback or accounting process, and then we members could order a quantity from the Office of the Assembly.

My sense is that if we could do that, we could obtain these at a much reduced cost than we could in going out and buying them, as I do, 100 or 200 at a time; likewise with the frame. I wonder if we could explore the possibility of that, and if there's some way we could flow it through the Office of the Assembly and make that available to members who would then use their budget at their discretion as they saw fit. Any information you could provide me and my colleagues would be most appreciated.

Mr Girvin: The shorter answer is that yes, I think there can be that level of accommodation. What we would probably end up doing is to deal with the tender and to work a separate arrangement between the Legislature and ourselves. As I explained in an earlier question, we're not into the ability to deal in terms of the accounting between the Legislature and the Ministry of Government Services, but I believe Barbara and myself and staff could work out some arrangement that would allow that to be part of a supply for the Legislative Assembly, so I do not see that as a difficulty.

Mr McClelland: Can I add a supplementary to that?

The Chair: A quick one.

Mr McClelland: I suppose there are a couple of things that would have to follow from that and I suppose it would be incumbent on us to go back to our respective caucuses, find out some estimates -- I imagine there would be a fairly broad range of estimates but I think we could probably get a handle. What would be the quantity required in each case for the printing of the document in blank form and the frames to make it viable as an option? Is there a benchmark, a few hundred, a couple thousand or whatever it might be, just so we know whether it's even worth pursuing?

Mr Girvin: I think it's worth pursuing. If we ran into an obstacle, then the staff would liaise with Barbara and we would get back to you. But certainly we buy in bulk in terms of both frames and the paper, and I think that would be an economical way of delivering your request.

The Chair: Thank you. We look forward to your comments on that particular item.

Returning to the original debate, Mr Cooper, I understand you have a comment.

Mr Mike Cooper (Kitchener-Wilmot): We seemed to be losing a bit of focus here during Mrs Marland's little speech earlier. She was talking about not recognizing seniors. There's no question about recognizing seniors. What we're discussing is the delivery of the scroll. The scroll is going to continue to be delivered. What we're talking about is whether we go with the metal frame or whether we go with the plastic folder.

Personally, I've been finding when I'm out doing deliveries -- and I usually deliver them myself by hand -- and when I'm in a lot of the seniors' homes, they aren't allowed to put things on the walls, so they really appreciate getting the plastic folders. That's one thing we should take into consideration. They usually can't get anybody to put a nail in or else they're limited in whether or not they're allowed to put something on the walls. So to be able to put it on their bureaus, they really appreciate it.

One of the things Mrs Marland brought up was, she was talking about a lot of these things turning into heirlooms, which means they get handed down to the family. The family usually isn't going to put them up on the wall. They're going to put them in safe keeping. I think the plastic folder's an ideal thing to have for safe keeping, for the family members to treasure for ever memories of their parents or whatever.

So from personal experience, I think the plastic folder is the way to go. Personally, when I first started getting them, I thought that was a nicer thing and I actually thought they were more expensive than the frames. For my riding and my constituents, I would say go with the plastic folders completely.

Mrs Sullivan: Just to introduce a note of levity, there is a member of this House, and I won't mention that person's name, who, even after the proposed recipient is deceased, still delivers the plaques for the very reason that the family wants them as heirlooms, and does that up for up to six months following the death. I thought that was quite a novel approach to this whole thing. I said frankly, I would have simply removed the plaque from the frame and used the frame for another purpose.

Mr Girvin: Was it plastic or glass?

Mrs Sullivan: Always framed.

This might not be quite on topic, but I think it becomes an issue about the jurisdiction of this whole thing, which is problematic. I sat on the Board of Internal Economy some time ago and at that point issues relating to the precinct were discussed and some of the responsibilities relating to what appeared to be members' services, which were then in fact involving the Ministry of Government Services, were left in a kind of abeyance with contractual relationships having to be made and so on and so on. Ultimately, a memorandum of understanding was developed so that certain areas of the precinct and certain responsibilities that had been carried by MGS in fact became the responsibility of the Legislative Assembly, largely through the Board of Internal Economy, with many recommendations coming from the committee.

This whole issue is one of those never-never land issues, which is really a members' service issue that we're talking about, because it isn't the individual member who is recognizing the constituent, it's the government that is recognizing the constituent. That has been kind of left there in MGS because it's a government situation rather than a members' situation. Indeed, it has always traditionally been seen to be a member's determination of the value and the approach to these issues, even though it's kind of left out hanging.

There are still a couple of other issues that are left with MGS. I think, because I am faced with this, of the garage in the Whitney Block, where there have had to be negotiations back and forth about how members can have access to that garage, which is not considered part of the precincts but part of the MGS operations. MGS reacted in fact to some of the members' concerns, including my own, first of all by giving us a key so that we could get down there without having to walk through the entire tunnel, and second by putting crash bars on so that we do have access that's safe and so on.

I think the fundamental question here really is, should this belong in MGS in the first place, or is this really a matter that should be considered in the Legislative Assembly budget? The problematical area is, it seemed to be a government plaque, so I'll just put that on the table. Maybe David would like to address that or perhaps Barb would like to speak to it.


Mr Girvin: I agree that is the generic issue you're facing on a variety of fronts in terms of the Legislature and the Ministry of Government Services. I think there's always been good accommodation between the two parties in trying to work out the appropriate resolve.

As I understand the issue, it is because it is the government providing greetings and a sign by the Premier that makes it a non-legislative function. Quite clearly, the orders in council, the Attorney Generals, the request, the variety of 8,000 scrolls are part of the government and should remain with MGS. If you're talking in terms of any other area, you are the client. Eighty per cent are directly requested by the constituency offices of the members. Of the remaining 20%, only 5% are done directly, and the rest are flowed. So some 95% are there.

Certainly, if we had our druthers we wouldn't be here on a $37,000 item since December, obviously, when you're dealing with millions of dollars. But it is a sensitivity in terms of the Legislature, and whether it be parking or a variety of other things, we recognize that we have the Speaker and the Legislature and the Ministry of Government Services in terms of providing common services. It's appropriate that we invest this level of time to find out if we can work out some accord.

Certainly from my perspective, depending on the outcome here, I'll take the advice back to my minister and will make some determination about what occurs on this particular item, but I thank the member for bringing up the larger issue. Quite clearly, I believe this would be much better residing within the budget and the dictates. Barbara can have this career opportunity of meeting every three years to deal with the guidelines because I think it is in the backyard of the Legislature. But I don't expect that to be resolved today. It was really out of courtesy and respect in terms of the difference of the Speaker and the Legislature and all three parties that we wrote to the Speaker back in December.

Mr Farnan: Initially I had put forward a suggestion that this be referred back to caucuses. Now I'm more and more convinced that really we should refer it back to the minister. What I see here in the correspondence is a request for our advice and help, that's all. There is no request for a decision or a direction, so basically, I think the members of the minister's staff have heard a very wide-ranging debate here this afternoon, some of it in favour of keeping the frame, some of it in opposition to it. I would suspect that within our individual caucuses, one would hear differences of viewpoint.

I always chuckle when I hear somebody wrap the banner or wave the flag about some particular group as though they or their caucus are the champion of that group. I think all parties probably would want to champion sensitivity and respect for our seniors. I don't think there's an individual member. Occasionally there's some giant -- I'm thinking of our federal colleague Stanley Knowles -- whose whole life is committed to advancing the cause of seniors. There are individuals like this. But by and large, I think most people recognize that seniors have made a significant contribution and deserve to be recognized.

There are so many items here. On one hand, I think we are very much in a restraint mode. There is no question in my mind that the public out there and we as politicians are much more sensitive to the fact that indeed there is a new reality of restraint. That's a given. When I heard the history of some of the awards, references were made to the 1980s. Indeed, the 1980s were a very affluent time. There were decisions made in the 1980s that were perhaps more generous than decisions that will be made in the 1990s. So we look at this. Some people can be cynical about this award system and suggest: "What is in this for MPPs? What is in it for seniors?" Just as the minister is touching base with members of Parliament about this particular recognition, I think the minister would want to touch base with seniors' organizations and individual seniors to examine how seniors themselves wish to be recognized. I think that would be a much more legitimate base for testing the waters, to go to seniors and say: "Okay, in this time of restraint, how would you like us to recognize you? Here are some of the options." Get some feedback that way, as opposed to a member of Parliament who's delivering a plaque.

So my recommendation is that we simply allow the discussion to find a point of closure this afternoon, that the members of the minister's staff take back the various views they've heard, and that we perhaps go to our caucuses and simply say, "If anybody wishes to have input, they can contact the minister directly."

Mrs Sullivan: That's a good idea, Mike.

The Chair: I think I'll allow just two more speakers on this particular issue: Mr Owens and Mrs Marland. I think we've had a really thorough debate on this particular issue right now. Mr Owens, briefly.

Mr Owens: In the interest of brevity, I'll yield to my colleague. I think we've beaten the horse to death on this one.

Mrs Marland: I don't know how many committee members remember that just about a year ago, I think it was, we discussed the fact that what went on the scroll itself had changed. Remember? We eliminated even the year. We made the scrolls totally insignificant. The year was taken off; it didn't say "the Honourable Bob Rae, Premier of Ontario" any more.

Interjection: I think the member's name was taken off.

Mrs Marland: It took off the part "presented by." There was a decision made on these scrolls which, fortunately, we were able to reverse a year ago. To me, it was senseless to present a scroll that didn't have a date on it, for goodness' sake. You look at that scroll a year later or 10 years later and, "I wonder when old so-and-so was married 40 years." I could never understand how that change was made in the ministry without talking to anybody. But anyway, through a number of us bringing it to this committee, we did get that situation reversed.

I think it would be totally unfair for the ministry to come to this committee and spend this amount of time on something that is important to the recipients and not give the ministry an answer. I'm not about to agree with Mr Farnan and say let's have closure and let the ministry go away and decide what they've heard. They've come here for some leadership, should I say -- dare I say? -- and some guidance.

I don't know what motion you have on the floor now, Mr Chairman, but I think we should have a motion and make a decision. If you have a motion of Mr White's now, maybe we could hear what the motion is and then perhaps we can vote on it and perhaps place another motion if that motion doesn't pass.

The Chair: David, do you have --


Mr Girvin: I didn't want to be a Vice-Chair. Maybe a quid pro quo would be that I could take back the interesting input that's been provided today, if you wish to deal in terms of caucus or other considerations, but we would work on some arrangement that if a change was being implemented we would come back to this committee in due course. If there is no change, we will remain with the status quo, and I think that might be an appropriate quid pro quo for the four points of view I've heard today.

As one who deals with a variety of budget cuts -- I believe I have to find $X million in the next week or so -- this is not quite going to fulfil all the targets, and it was identified in December. If it were $100 million, we might not have spent this amount of time. If that is appropriate, I'd be very happy to go back to my ministry and minister. I don't know if that meets your approval, Mr Chairman.

The Chair: Thank you, David. Margaret brought up a couple of points regarding the cost of the frame itself; maybe you could take a look at the cost of the frame and see if there is a way of reducing the cost of that.

Mr Girvin: A quick answer is that we buy in bulk, and it's the eight and a half by 11 versus the smaller size you're playing with. When you're playing with that size scroll for the printing and the aesthetics, it is slightly different in terms of the scrolls. Is my understanding correct in that? Is it the same size?

Mrs Speakman: I don't know; I've put yours away.

The Chair: Mrs Sullivan brought up a very good point in relation to exactly where this particular service belongs, either in your ministry or in Legislative Assembly. I was wondering if this committee can get some advice on that and get that particular option looked at and explored.

Mrs Speakman: When it comes to what services the Legislative Assembly provides, we provide services to members which are in connection with their parliamentary responsibilities. This program is, and always has been to date, a government program in which the members participate; therefore it was determined that it was not one of the programs the Legislative Assembly would take over from the Ministry of Government Services, as it really is a government program. That's not to say the members might not want to look at the program and discuss it at some point, but that was the rationale for not taking it over.

Mr Owens: If we're exploring the issue that Carman brought up, perhaps we could also explore making available the folders for members to purchase, if that's possible. You seem to be hesitant about that.

Mr Girvin: What we've worked on is much the same arrangement, in which we would go out for tender on that for a bulk purchase and work out some arrangement between the Legislature and the ministry financial accounting. If that's the desire, Gary Brown and Barbara can work out some arrangement, the same as Mr McClelland suggested.

Mr Owens: Great, because I think they are suitable for some purposes.

Mr Girvin: We'd be happy to do that.

The Chair: Thank you. The Chair is at the direction of the committee. Is it the wish of the committee to act on the advice of the assistant deputy minister?

Mrs Marland: Excuse me, at the moment you have a motion. Was it withdrawn?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr White: I moved postponing or deferring it, not withdrawing it, at the moment.

The Chair: Sorry. I stand corrected.

Mr White: Does the motion to defer require a vote? I thought it usually did.

The Chair: It's not necessarily done by a vote, but it can be done by agreement.

Mr Owens: In the spirit of non-partisan discussion we've endeavoured to have in this committee since its inception and since I came to this place, I would say the ADM has made a reasonable suggestion. We all seem to think it's a reasonable suggestion and I would respectfully request that my colleague withdraw his motion.

The Chair: Mr White?

Mr White: Fine. Withdrawn.

The Chair: The motion's been withdrawn. Does the committee stand in agreement with the suggestion of the assistant deputy minister? Agreed.

Mr Girvin: Unless I'm making changes, I won't be back here.

Mrs Marland: Not for three years anyway. Thank you very much for coming.

Mr Girvin: Thank you. It was most enjoyable.

The Chair: I wish to thank the assistant deputy minister from the Ministry of Government Services for coming along here this afternoon, as well as Barbara Speakman, the executive director of assembly services. LETTER

The Chair: Time is passing, and we have a second item on the agenda. Everybody's got a copy of a letter from Mr Shulman?

Mrs Marland: Did we discuss this before?

The Chair: No. This is new.

Mr Farnan: Could you share with us any information you have received that could help us with this?

The Chair: I have, through the advice of the clerk, suggested a draft letter. Maybe I'll get the clerk to give his opinion on the whole issue. It's the best way.

Clerk of the Committee (Mr Doug Arnott): My advice to the committee would be that the committee does not presently have the authority to consider this matter.

Mr Farnan: Would this mean that the matter is referred to legal counsel or that the matter is dropped?

The Chair: At the direction of this committee, we could write a letter to Mr Shulman indicating that this committee does not have the right to do what he wants to do; doesn't have the authority to do it.

Mr Farnan: I move that such a letter be sent.

The Chair: Thank you. The motion is that the committee write a letter to Mr Shulman indicating that this committee does not have the authority to do what Mr Shulman is requesting.

Mr Owens: I think you should be a touch more fulsome and add, as the remarks were made in the House: "Parliamentary privilege, immunity and blah, blah, blah. And by the way, you're a former MPP. You should know better."

The Chair: We will take your comments into consideration. Thank you. Is there agreement of the committee? Agreed.

Any further business before the committee? Seeing none, the committee stands adjourned till two weeks today at 3:30.

The committee adjourned at 1708.