STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES ORGANISMES GOUVERNEMENTAUX
Tuesday 26 November 2019 Mardi 26 novembre 2019
The committee met at 0900 in committee room 1.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): I’d like to call the meeting to order. Good morning, everyone. We are here today to consider the intended appointments of Mark Borer, nominated as member of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (Tribunals Ontario), and Dan Panagakos, nominated as member of the grant review team – Hamilton (Ontario Trillium Foundation).
Mr. Mark Borer
Review of intended appointment, selected by official opposition party: Mark Borer, intended appointee as member, Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (Tribunals Ontario).
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): First we have Mark Borer. If you could please come forward, sir. Welcome. As you may be aware, you have the opportunity, should you choose to do so, to make an initial statement. Following this, there will be questions from members of the committee. With that questioning, we will start with the official opposition, followed by the government, with 15 minutes allocated to each recognized party. Any time you take in your statement will be deducted from the time allotted to the government.
The floor is yours.
Mr. Mark Borer: Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. Good morning.
I’d like to briefly tell you about my background and qualifications to be a member of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
After graduating from the University of Toronto, I attended Queen’s University law school and was called to the bar in 2002, where I received the Isadore Levinter Prize for excellence in public law from the law society.
As a young lawyer, I served as a policy adviser at Management Board, now Treasury Board, and eventually transitioned into executive recruitment, focusing on lawyers.
Since 2013, I’ve been president of the Canadian Friends of Israel Free Loan Association, which raises money to provide interest-free loans to those in need in Israel.
From an early age, both my parents instilled in my brother and me that helping people and contributing to the community is the greatest good. Back in 2011, I was looking for a way to get more involved, and I noticed an advertisement for the Toronto Licensing Tribunal on the city of Toronto web page. I applied and was appointed as a part-time member.
In Toronto, restaurants, taxi drivers, massage parlours, tow truck drivers, hot dog carts and anyone else holding a city licence appeals to the tribunal if there are any licensing issues with the city. Usually appellants are self-represented and the licensing question is their sole livelihood.
At first, we needed to sit every Thursday to get through the volume of cases that we had. As time went on, we started to make small changes that greatly reduced the amount of time required. We encouraged settlements much more strongly. We required the city to provide all of its evidence to the appellant well in advance of the hearing instead of the night before, as had been previous practice, and we were more rigorous in how we granted adjournments. Put together, this greatly reduced the number of days that we sat each month.
I really enjoyed being on the licensing tribunal, and when I saw in 2012 that the federal government was looking for members to sit on the new Social Security Tribunal full-time, I applied and was appointed to the appeal division of the tribunal starting in 2013. This meant giving up my recruiting business and moving to Ottawa, but I was happy to do that, because I really enjoyed tribunal work and thought that I could do some good.
Sitting on the Social Security Tribunal, I had an interesting opportunity to participate in something that’s fairly uncommon: the establishment of the rules and policies for an entirely new tribunal. The SST was the result of a merger of four separate tribunals. It was intended to be more efficient and easier for the public to access. We had a general division split into an employment insurance section and an income security section, and an appeal division, where I was, which heard appeals from the general division.
All tribunals have challenges, to be sure, and the SST was no exception, but I really enjoyed working with my fellow members to resolve our inherited employment insurance backlog. We did so by triaging files, by resolving simple matters on the record without a hearing, by avoiding interlocutory decisions and avoiding adjournments wherever possible. We tried to conclude the vast majority of our hearings by teleconference instead of in-person hearings; this actually proved quite popular with appellants, as well as being a time- and resource-saver.
During my time on the SST, I issued over 2,000 written decisions, including a complex group appeal of over 2,400 claimants and a charter challenge to the newly enacted self-employment benefits rules. Almost all of these decisions involved self-represented appellants.
Earlier this year, I applied for the Human Rights Tribunal. I’m very happy to have reached this stage of the approval process. The Human Rights Tribunal serves a vital function in making Ontario a better place. I’m Jewish. I know all too well the evils that unchallenged prejudice, hatred and discrimination can bring, not just because of the damage done to individuals concerned, but because of the way that these things can lead to poisonous and sometimes violent acts that damage the very fabric of the entire country.
The tribunal exists to assist in working towards a world where the dignity and worth of every person is recognized and where everyone provides for equal rights and opportunities without discrimination, so each person can feel a part of the community and contribute fully to society. I believe that my skills and experience could be an asset to the tribunal, and I would be grateful for the opportunity to serve.
I welcome any questions that anyone might have.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Thank you for your presentation. The first round of questions goes to the official opposition. Mr. Natyshak?
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Good morning, Mr. Borer. Welcome to Queen’s Park, and thanks for submitting your name to be a member of the Human Rights Tribunal. This committee is one that is unique in that we get to vet candidates for various appointments, agencies and boards throughout the province. Those are boards that are integral to the functioning of the province, and a lot of people don’t understand the complexities or the role of board members in the appointments process.
In that light, this committee has had to deal with some rather contentious issues, and those issues revolve around appointments that have been made by the government, frankly. By and large, we’ve seen a lot of specifically partisan appointments, so our line of questioning has to deal with that, and I hope that you understand that and don’t take any personal offence to the line of questioning that we pose as the official opposition, because it is required in due diligence in our role as committee members and in the protection of the public.
That being said, Mr. Borer, have you ever been a member of the Conservative Party of Canada?
Mr. Mark Borer: I have.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Have you ever been a member of the Ontario PC Party?
Mr. Mark Borer: I have.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Are you currently a member, a card-carrying member, of either one?
Mr. Mark Borer: To be honest, I’m not 100% sure, but I have been a member for 20 years, with the exception of the time that I was required to be neutral on my federal appointment.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Okay. I’ll assume that as a member you’ve made campaign contributions and donations to those various parties?
Mr. Mark Borer: Yes.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Do you recall when the last time you made a contribution to the PC Party of Ontario was?
Mr. Mark Borer: I attended the PC Party convention last year, I believe, and I think that registers as a donation.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Sorry, the leadership convention?
Mr. Mark Borer: No, just the PC Party—the annual—
Mr. Taras Natyshak: The party convention?
Mr. Mark Borer: It’s a bit odd, I know, but I actually enjoy—
Mr. Taras Natyshak: That’s not odd at all. We’re all party animals here. That’s our Super Bowl, so we understand.
Mr. Mark Borer: Fair enough.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Did you support any specific candidate in the recent PC Party leadership campaign?
Mr. Mark Borer: No, I didn’t. I was in Ottawa then.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Have you ever worked on a political campaign?
Mr. Mark Borer: Yes, sir.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Have you ever been a candidate?
Mr. Mark Borer: I have not. I’m not that brave.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Bravery sometimes isn’t the commodity that’s required to be a politician.
Mr. Mark Borer: That’s fair.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: There are other words that come to mind, but nevertheless. Did you specifically identify the Human Rights Tribunal as one that would suit your desire to serve?
Mr. Mark Borer: I did. I registered on the appointments web page, which is quite a good web page, by the way.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Had you done that in the past ever?
Mr. Mark Borer: No, but that’s just a coincidence. I was on the Toronto tribunal, then I was on the federal version of the—
Mr. Taras Natyshak: You were appointed to those—
Mr. Mark Borer: The Toronto Licensing Tribunal and then the federal tribunal, which is full-time.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: And that was an appointment through the federal government?
Mr. Mark Borer: Yes. That was back in 2013 with that appointment. That was renewed by the new government a couple of times as well.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Okay. And so this one was just of your own volition, to identify wherever you could—
Mr. Mark Borer: That’s right.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: No one approached you from the government, from the Premier’s office, from executive staff?
Mr. Mark Borer: No. As you know, I’m sure, the web page sends email alerts when positions of interest arise. I didn’t specify anything, so I get email alerts about every position that’s advertised. I did apply to some other positions as well. This one was my first choice, though, for sure.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Okay. Very good. Your legal career is one that points to a lot of experience, specifically in representing those who don’t have representation. Also, you mentioned you’d done some charter challenges. Can you elaborate on that?
Mr. Mark Borer: Yes. Employment insurance—I don’t want to get too far into the weeds and please stop me if I’m going too far. I have a lawyer’s gift, so to speak, for speaking at length.
Employment insurance had been based on the idea that you pay premiums through your job and then it’s an insurance program and you receive benefits if you are unemployed. The self-employed, because they controlled their own hours and their own salaries—it was always deemed inappropriate that they—
Mr. Taras Natyshak: They don’t have to pay in any longer.
Mr. Mark Borer: Right, but a new program was brought in where they would have the option of opting in.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Okay.
Mr. Mark Borer: And once you did that, from that moment on, to the end of days, as long as you were self-employed, you had to pay benefits. You received benefits back based on the salary that you earned the year before. So in the transition period, in the first year that it was brought in, there was in some cases a disconnect between what people would normally be earning, which would have been treated differently if it wasn’t in that transition year, to what people actually earned in that year.
The appellant before me was arguing that because she had complications during her pregnancy, which resulted in her earning less and therefore paying less into the system, she received less benefits than she would otherwise have done if the system had operated in a different way. I’ve always been taught that decisions speak for themselves, so I don’t want to explain my rationale any more than it appeared in that decision. Essentially, the discrimination did exist, but it resulted because of the transition period, not because it was aimed at any particular group or had an effect on any particular group.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: And the outcome of that case was?
Mr. Mark Borer: The challenge was denied.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: The challenge was denied.
Mr. Mark Borer: Yes. Ultimately, she was in the same position that she would have been in if she was male and ill from a non-pregnancy-related reason. Therefore, it wasn’t because she was a member of that enumerated group.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Interesting.
Yesterday this House debated an opposition day motion put forward by the Ontario New Democratic Party that requested that the government of Ontario, and the Premier specifically, address the issue of Bill 21, la Loi 21 in Quebec, one that New Democrats feel—and it was supported unanimously in the House, so I assume that all members in the House feel—that that law is discriminatory, has components of racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination that we hate to see in any jurisdiction.
I wonder if you have any thoughts on Bill 21 and whether you think that it would withstand a charter challenge.
Mr. Mark Borer: Forgive me for this, but I need to be careful in how I answer that just in case any related issues were ever to arise, assuming that I am appointed to the Human Rights Tribunal. I can only answer in a very general way.
It was enacted notwithstanding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I have read, as I’m sure you have as well, the nature of the arguments being made in front of the court. I know from my own experience that the courts follow their own logic and their own reasoning. It’s always a bit of a mug’s game to attempt to predict what a court will do, especially in a complex constitutional challenge with a lot of moving parts.
I don’t know that I would be comfortable saying too much more than that.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: It’s a perfectly legalese answer, and I appreciate you even addressing it.
Mr. Mark Borer: I hope that demonstrates my suitability for the position—
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Certainly for politics. With that, I’ll cede my time to my colleague, and I thank you very much.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Ms. Stiles.
Ms. Marit Stiles: How much time do we have?
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): You have about five and a half minutes.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Okay. Thank you very much.
Good morning, and thanks for being here. As my colleague mentioned, we will ask you some questions that I hope don’t make you uncomfortable. I think you have some experience in this process, so you’ll understand.
Mr. Mark Borer: I was actually saying earlier that there’s a certain irony in testifying here. I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of hearings where people testified in front of me. This is actually my first time testifying in front of anyone.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Oh, there you go. Good. Okay.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: You’re not testifying. We’re just talking.
Mr. Mark Borer: Okay. All right. Sure, let’s go with that.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: You’re not under oath.
Mr. Mark Borer: That’s true.
Ms. Marit Stiles: I have to say, I’m very happy to see you here, and thank you for coming, because we have had some difficulty over the last, I guess, five months—actually over the last year, but particularly over the last five months, we had hundreds of public appointees, political appointees by the government who were essentially rubber-stamped. We were not able to hold the hearings here to be able to meet those folks—which, to be fair, I think most people are quite happy, I would assume, to come and share their experience and explain why they want that role, right?
I just have a couple more questions, for the record. I see you did work as a policy adviser to the Chair of the Management Board. That was, I assume, a political policy assistant?
Mr. Mark Borer: That’s right.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Can you tell me whose Management Board—
Mr. Mark Borer: It was David Tsubouchi.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Okay.
Mr. Mark Borer: He was an excellent boss, by the way. I can say it for the record—a great parliamentarian, someone whom I have the utmost respect for. He always listened to our views, and when he decided to do something different than what we had advised, he explained why. I learned a lot from him about decision-making, actually, that has carried forward into my career.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Who was Premier at the time? Would that have been Mike Harris and then Ernie Eves?
Mr. Mark Borer: That’s correct.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Right. So you were a political staffer at that point, then you went to law school, and the rest is history, I guess.
My colleague asked a few questions. I want to get a little bit more specific. Have you been involved in any more recent roles in political campaigns and if you could name which MPPs or candidates you worked with.
Mr. Mark Borer: As I said, I’ve been involved in political campaigns since undergrad. I was in the Ontario model Parliament in high school, as a Liberal cabinet minister, actually. I really enjoyed it. When you say it is the Super Bowl, I understand that completely.
I’ve been involved in many, many campaigns, certainly—
Ms. Marit Stiles: Anybody who’s currently elected, maybe the last election, or since the last provincial election?
Mr. Mark Borer: Yes. I was Billy Pang’s campaign manager in Markham–Unionville.
Ms. Marit Stiles: MPP, okay.
Mr. Mark Borer: Yes, yes. Just for the record, by the way, I don’t get paid for any political work that I do, not for 15 years or however long it has been since then. I think that democracy is not a self-supporting system. It requires public participation in all political parties for it to function properly. That means people have to go out and vote, but they also have to volunteer. Less than 1% of Canadians are members of a political party.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Sorry, but you were the campaign manager.
Mr. Mark Borer: I was.
Ms. Marit Stiles: That’s not usually a figurehead role. It’s usually somebody who—
Mr. Mark Borer: No, it’s a significant, time-consuming role.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Just so you know, for the record and for future reference, the NDP pays our campaign managers.
Mr. Mark Borer: Noted.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Next time—
Mr. Mark Borer: I was offered but I declined.
Ms. Marit Stiles: I know. I appreciate that. I’m joking. But we do pay our campaign managers.
Mr. Mark Borer: You know, when I was younger, very few managers got paid. Then, over time, I’ve seen that increase. But I think that’s a result of the process that I’m worried about, that less people are involved voluntarily, that you certainly need to pay people because—
Ms. Marit Stiles: Yes, but some of that is also based around election rules.
Mr. Mark Borer: There are a lot of factors, certainly.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Yes. Anyway, are you currently a member of any riding associations? I think that would be Don Valley West; right?
Mr. Mark Borer: No, I live downtown, actually. I’m actually in Spadina–Fort York. I haven’t attended any of their meetings, or I’m not on a board—
Ms. Marit Stiles: But you clearly are a member of the Conservative Party.
Mr. Mark Borer: I’m a member of the party, I believe. Although, to be honest, I can’t say that with 100% certainty.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Over the years—I know that you mentioned that the most recent donation you recall was for the Conservative Party convention—
Mr. Mark Borer: The Progressive Conservatives, provincially, yes.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Progressive Conservative Party convention. Could you estimate how much you donate every year, approximately, to the Conservative Party?
Mr. Mark Borer: I haven’t actually made straight-up donations in a while because I was in Ottawa and strictly neutral in—
Ms. Marit Stiles: Even during the provincial campaign when you were the—
Mr. Mark Borer: No. I felt that donating my time was sufficient; 12 hours a day for a month, I thought was sufficient.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Yes. Okay. So in terms of your current relationships with Conservatives now, you still have some close relationships with Conservative MPPs, obviously Billy Pang—
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): If I may, one minute left.
Mr. Mark Borer: Yes, absolutely. Actually, I know some NDP MPPs as well. I believe in the motto of the Legislature: I hear the other side. I think everyone gets into politics, especially as a candidate, for fundamentally the same reason: to try to make things better. It’s the very same reason that I’m here today trying to serve on this tribunal.
Ms. Marit Stiles: And you seem very qualified. We’re not questioning that.
Mr. Mark Borer: Thank you.
Ms. Marit Stiles: I think you can understand that we’ve seen this pattern, as my colleague mentioned, over the last year, almost year and a half now, of a lot of political appointments. It’s not entirely surprising for a government to come in and appoint friends, but I think, given the lack of transparency and accountability—this is really the only accountability for the public.
Anyways thank you very much again for attending. We appreciate it.
Mr. Mark Borer: I’m happy to answer any questions if that will make you feel more comfortable.
Ms. Marit Stiles: No, that’s good. Thank you very much.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Thank you. That concludes the official opposition’s round of questioning. I’d like now to turn to the government. Mr. Cuzzetto.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Good morning, Mark.
Mr. Mark Borer: Good morning.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Thank you for being here today. It’s an honour for me to see you here today.
I understand that you worked on the tribunal federally. Tell us about your experience, how that would help in this new position today.
Mr. Mark Borer: Most administrative tribunals suffer from very similar challenges. I don’t want to speak to any specific challenges the Human Rights Tribunal might have, not being a member of that tribunal now; that would be unfair and ill-informed, frankly. But in general, tribunals have to deal with the fact that although they can control the resources they receive in some ways, they can’t control the number of applications they receive from the public. Many tribunals, including the Human Rights Tribunal—those applications go up suddenly and it’s never obvious ahead of time that that’s going to happen. So where you were quite comfortably dealing with your intake, now suddenly your intake has increased 25%, but you have the same resources. It takes quite a long period of time to change that, and struggling with that is a good portion of case management on tribunals. Getting experience with that federally I think would have great value.
Members of the opposition mentioned self-represented litigants. It’s an ongoing problem. The purpose of administrative justice in general is not to be a court. Not everyone identifies what it’s for. What it’s really for is to provide easier access to the resolution of issues without resorting to the courts. Federally, a federal judge costs about a million dollars a year, including all of the ancillary processes. I’m not sure—I can’t verify these numbers—but I was told that an administrative tribunal member is about $250,000, or maybe a little bit more.
It’s not only a savings for the government, though; you don’t necessarily need a lawyer in front of an administrative tribunal. You have members who have less formalized processes, where they can help you through the process. It’s more understandable. It’s in English.
Courts are based on the idea of two parties who are represented. Tribunals really aren’t like that. I think being on the SST, dealing with people who were, by and large, unemployed—that is why they were receiving employment insurance—helped me to understand what the challenges are that face many tribunals. I think that would be transferrable and useful on the Human Rights Tribunal as well.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Thank you very much, Mark.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Mr. Coe.
Mr. Lorne Coe: Thank you very much for your deputation this morning. Should your appointment be successful, what challenges do you think you’ll be encountering?
Mr. Mark Borer: As I said, not being on the tribunal now, I can’t definitively state. But I did take the opportunity to read the annual report from Tribunals Ontario and to take a look at some of the online materials that are available. It looks like they have a great intake rise and will need to deal with that issue. It’s always a problem dealing with a high volume of cases. It’s always a problem dealing with self-represented appellants.
Another problem that people often don’t think about, which I suspect we’ll have as well, is to do with forms. Forms are designed by well-meaning legal people who need to get certain pieces of information for the case to proceed. But to an applicant, it usually just looks like Latin. It can be very confusing.
On our federal tribunal, we had the unique experience of having a federal judge rule that our forms were so confusing that they represented a breach of the natural justice rights of appellants. I’m not aware of that happening elsewhere, but obviously, we took that to heart and we tried to change things to make them more accessible.
It’s an ongoing problem, the balance between gaining information from an appellant and having an easily accessible format for people to get into. We transferred, federally, to a paperless system from files. So when I started, there were literally 600 paper files piled up in stacks in my office. While it was a visceral feeling of accomplishment when those files started to decrease, when we switched to a computerized system, that was better—not right away, of course.
Everyone has challenges in navigating those issues, and I’m sure the Human Rights Tribunal will be similar.
Mr. Lorne Coe: All right. Thank you for that answer. Thank you, Chair.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Mr. Bouma.
Mr. Will Bouma: If I could, through you, Mr. Chair, to the applicant: Mr. Borer, thank you very much for coming. You seem to have an in-depth knowledge. You accuse us of being brave for running for public office, and yet I would make the same accusation about you, going into this sort of public appointments process.
I’m just curious. In your experience in some other tribunal work that you’ve done for the city of Toronto and in Ottawa, does the tribunal itself have complete control over its administrative processes to find some of those efficiencies and to smooth operation? You seemed to allude to that, and I was wondering if you could explain that a little bit further.
Mr. Mark Borer: Again, I can’t speak to the Human Rights Tribunal because I’m not on that tribunal. But speaking to my previous experience, federally, there was a tug and push between legal counsel, who are primarily interested in having the best tribunal they can have, and members, who often are more practical in the application of those rules. We had some situations federally where—if I’m being honest, what I wanted to do was not in compliance with the rules as they would be written on the page, but the parties were very happy with the result that came from that change. Maintaining that flexibility is important.
In Ontario, we have the Statutory Powers Procedure Act. There’s no such act like that federally, so tribunals have more leeway federally because there isn’t an overriding act. But provincially, within the confines of that act, there are a lot of things you can do to make things simpler or more technical, depending on your approach to these things.
Many of my colleagues federally wrote beautiful 20-page decisions. Mine tended to be six pages. I was appealed less and I was overturned only once, because I wrote in English. The purpose of a decision is not to have an academic discussion about the legal points in issue, but to explain to the loser why they lost. The winner doesn’t care that much. Maybe they’re interested a little bit, but they won; they got what they wanted. It’s not of huge concern to them. But the loser wants to know why they lost their case. I tried to focus on that, and I think that’s something that people can do. It also makes it harder to appeal, because you don’t say as much. So unless you made a mistake in those areas that you addressed, the courts will normally agree with what you’ve done.
I hope that answers your question on that score.
Mr. Will Bouma: Very much; thank you. It’s interesting that you bring that up. It’s something that I’ve been contemplating quite a bit. In my profession as an optometrist and in many others—and I received this from some Indigenous colleagues in the child care sector: the difference between a duty to report and a duty to respond. You’re going in the same direction: that common sense should always prevail over structure and formality, and I really appreciate that. Thank you very much.
Mr. Mark Borer: We had some cases where the appellant had a piece of evidence that would automatically result in them winning their case, but they hadn’t presented it at the right time in the process. By admitting that, we probably weren’t supposed to do that, but the parties were okay with it and it resolved the matter instantly. That was what people wanted. I think that keeping your eye on that goal is important in administrative justice.
Mr. Will Bouma: Again, thank you very much for coming by. I think we’re probably almost there. I really appreciate your time today.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): A couple of minutes. Mr. Nicholls?
Mr. Rick Nicholls: Welcome, sir. It’s good to see you here.
I remember one time, I had a history teacher who said that brevity is a sign of wisdom. Going from 20 pages down to six: wisdom. Of course, he also wrote on my history paper, “Mr. Nicholls, not that much brevity.”
Mr. Mark Borer: Right. It’s always a balancing act.
Mr. Rick Nicholls: It’s always a battle as well. But that’s all right. I always tell people I loved school, but I was always in that half of the class that made the top half possible.
I appreciate hearing your accomplishments. I like how you tackle situations and working with clients, if I can use that term.
What would you say would be one of your greatest accomplishments from your past experiences, working in Ottawa or here in Toronto?
Mr. Mark Borer: When I was on the Social Security Tribunal, I had a case in front of me that had 2,400 applicants. At the lengthy hearing in Vancouver, the appellants’ lawyer said, “We believe that all of our applicants require a new hearing, separate from each other,” that it was a mistake to merge them. I was thinking, “Okay, that’s more than the entire volume that the tribunal will address this year.” That sounded overwhelming. The government lawyer stood up and said, “Yes, we agree.”
That put me in a bit of a spot, because that was not going to be the best way forward. But when I looked into it a little more and asked them questions at the hearing, what the appellants’ lawyer really wanted was their right to a new hearing to be recognized. They didn’t necessarily want that new hearing.
We worked out a special process—again, a little bit outside of the rules, but the parties agreed, and it resolved this lengthy matter very quickly—where they could essentially do a review with the government. If they were unsatisfied with that review, they could then come back to the tribunal for their new hearing, no questions asked. So at the end of the day, instead of 2,400, I believe we had about 30 or 40 who actually went through with that, and on the appeal division, I faced three. I was seized of the issue, so they all came to me. I believe there were three or four who required the appeal division. None of them had to go to the courts.
This is a file that had gone on for a decade. It was involving a charter challenge in BC where the government there had altered union contracts unilaterally, so it had some social significance. But I was quite proud of that.
On April 1 of that year, I told the chair of the general division that would be hearing the 2,400 new hearings that, unfortunately, he would have to do all those. Later, he found it funny—not so much at the time.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): That concludes the time allotted. Thank you very much for your presentation.
Mr. Dan Panagakos
Review of intended appointment, selected by government party: Dan Panagakos, intended appointee as member, grant review team—Hamilton (Ontario Trillium Foundation).
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Next, we have Dan Panagakos, nominated as member of the grant review team for Hamilton for the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Could you please come forward?
Good morning. As you may be aware, you have the opportunity, should you choose to do so, to make an initial statement. Following this, there will be questions from members of the committee. With that questioning, we will start with the government, followed by the official opposition, with 15 minutes allocated to each recognized party. Any time you take for your statement will be deducted from the time allotted to the government. Welcome. The floor is yours.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Thank you very much. I would like to start off with a good morning to everyone and just a few opening comments.
Approximately 35 years ago, I made my way to the city of Hamilton to attend McMaster University. Like many Torontonians making their way along the slow-moving QEW—although it was very quick this morning—I knew little about the city and had no designs to stay. What I did not grasp at the time was that Toronto may have been my hometown, but the Hammer—Hamilton—was to become my home. This is where my wife and I would settle, raise our children, make our life together—mourn the defeat on Sunday. I travelled to Toronto often to visit family, but I always returned home to Hamilton. I did not realize 35 years ago how much the city would mean to me and my family. This is why I’m here today.
I would like to take a minute to explain to the committee why I’m getting involved with the GRT in Hamilton, why I think I’m qualified and, finally, what I bring to the table.
First of all, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to deal with a history issue. There’s a Latin term that was used during the Renaissance. The term is “vertu.” The translation means “guts.” It literally refers to the viscera of your stomach. It refers to civic-mindedness—do you have the strength of character to serve? This translation always stuck with me when I was in university. Fifteenth-century Florence was under tremendous change. It was the beginning of our modern western world.
Hamilton today is undergoing its own renaissance. The city’s population is growing. It has become culturally and ethnically diverse. With greater complexities taking place in Hamilton, it is vital that civic-minded people participate. As the previous gentleman mentioned, it is important, as part of the democratic process, that people get involved.
The qualities promoted by the Trillium Foundation, I feel, take the city in the appropriate direction: fostering active lifestyles, connecting people, support of the arts and green initiatives. I share these values. That is why I wish to get involved. I want the city to continue to grow and prosper with the ideals just mentioned.
I’ve recently retired. I have the time, resources and ability to do my small part. There is a civic obligation to participate in supporting one’s local community. Whatever form it takes—coaching a local team, volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping out at the art gallery, which I’ve done—one has to step up. Getting involved with the GRT is me stepping up. My family and my wife’s family have had a long tradition of volunteerism. It’s important to me to keep that practice going.
My degrees in history, political science and education have given me the ability to think critically, communicate and assess complex socio-political issues in an objective way. I feel that I’ve had a positive impact on my students, and that was by getting involved. I also saw how important the role of a teacher could be. I got, for the most part, the at-risk students. It was a very challenging group to get on a semester basis, year after year. But it was also very rewarding. That’s why I developed a student success program at our school and worked closely with the Indigenous community that was very close to the school in Caledonia, where I was teaching.
Working in the GRT is a logical extension of my teaching—using my knowledge, skills and training to make things better. That’s why I’m here.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Thank you very much. The first round of questioning will go to the government. Mr. Cuzzetto.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Good morning, Dan—Panagakos?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Dan is fine. You did very well, by the way.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: It’s Greek, correct?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Yes. With that many vowels, yes.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Could you reiterate your qualifications and explain what they would do in this position today?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: In my teaching position and education, I deal with social issues constantly. That’s what history is. So you develop over time a keen sense of social issues, how they develop, how governments have responded—those kinds of things. I feel that having that kind of training, not only in my BA but also in terms of the education—because what we’re dealing with in terms of—I looked at the GRT and what they did in previous years. It’s very much social issues and very much dealing with the needs of the community and making the community go in a certain direction.
As a history teacher, that’s what I did. I taught civics in grade 10. I taught Canadian history in grade 10, keeping an eye on those social issues: multiculturalism; French-English relations; international relations; local issues; Indigenous issues—all that stuff. So I feel it makes me an excellent candidate for that.
Also, being a bit of an outsider initially in Hamilton, just having a sense of the city and seeing how it’s grown over the last 35 years, being a part of that and witnessing it: I feel that makes me very qualified.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I noticed as well that you’ve done a lot of community involvement. Could you explain a little bit more about that?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Yes. The soup kitchen, the Out of the Cold program: I’m not involved with that anymore; I have moved on to other things. But essentially, there has been a real need in Hamilton and in Toronto. I believe the Out of the Cold program began in Toronto, from November to March. The church I was attending—they mentioned that they were looking for volunteers for Out of the Cold. It’s run by various synagogues, mosques and churches. So a few of us stepped up and got involved. Monday at 4 o’clock in the St. James Church at Hunter and James, basically I was the soup guy. It was very important. These people needed clean clothes, which were provided, and hot food, and there were counsellors available.
It was an important thing. We had at times 100 people lined up for kitchen; in the dead of winter, when things were really bad, up to 200 people.
I’ve also coached local hockey teams and actually the high school team as well. I also helped out at the Hamilton art gallery and so forth. That’s kind of the extent of it.
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Thank you very much.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Further questions? Mr. Bouma.
Mr. Will Bouma: Mr. Chair. Through you to the applicant: Thank you very much for coming down today. We really appreciate that. You’ve obviously done quite a bit of research into what the grant review team is doing with the Ontario Trillium Foundation. It is kind of fun to be the one who gets to hand out money.
Looking at that, what are some projects that really inspired you where you thought, “You know what? I would really like to be a part of that,” when you made the decision to apply to Trillium?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: I think what caught my attention, the one specifically, was the research that was being conducted. I think it was through McMaster University. Essentially, they were looking at demographic trends and that kind of thing. It surprised me, because I thought the money was going to specific hands-on, so that caught my attention, how they’re doing research to inform to make better decisions.
What I also noticed was a focus on Indigenous students. I worked with a lot of Indigenous students, and I know that, actually, a couple of them are working in some of the Indigenous centres in Hamilton today, so I found that interesting, in terms of seeing that.
My concern overall would be that there are so many applicants, so how do you decide? There’s so much information. That’s going to be the challenge in terms providing the best bang for the buck, I suppose—the greatest utility. That’s what caught my attention, initially.
Mr. Will Bouma: Very good. If I may, did you apply to anything else, or was it just Trillium that you were interested in?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: No, it was just Trillium. That’s all.
Mr. Will Bouma: Okay. Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Further questions? Mr. Nicholls.
Mr. Rick Nicholls: Mr. Panagakos, good morning.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Good morning, sir. How are you?
Mr. Rick Nicholls: Nice to see you here, Dan.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Nice to see you.
Mr. Rick Nicholls: One of the issues that I’ve noticed back in my riding—and I’m from that outstanding riding of Chatham-Kent–Leamington. My colleague from Essex—we border each other, so lot of times there might be some overlap as well.
One of the challenges, I find, is that people don’t always know what’s available out there, for example, with the Trillium grants and so on. So I realize and recognize that it’s going to require a lot of time on your behalf—time, effort, energy—and so on. How do you see your time being spent—just as sitting back and reviewing, or do you go out after business, as I would call it? In other words, say, “Hey, do you know that? Oh, by the way, there could be something over here, and you need to apply for, maybe, a Trillium grant” and so on. What are your thoughts on that?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: I’m not sure exactly of the application process. Again, I’ve just applied to be on the committee, so I don’t know the minutia, the details of all that. My first reaction would be that I’d be concerned in terms of going out and soliciting. I would be concerned in terms of my objectivity. But I don’t know how the whole process works. But my initial concern in that area would be: Should I be going out if I see a need? Is it within the purview of the committee for me to go out and try to find people? I don’t know. So what I’m saying is, I don’t know.
Mr. Rick Nicholls: Well, that’s a fair statement. I didn’t want to put you on the hot seat, per se. But it’s kind of, like, find a need and fill it, or create the need. Sometimes, some people don’t realize or understand what is available out there. I wish that we actually had more applicants applying for Trillium dollars, to help them out, because they all are pretty worthy causes.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Absolutely, yes.
Mr. Rick Nicholls: Thank you very much for your time.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Any further questions? Seeing none, we will switch over to the official opposition. Ms. Stiles?
Ms. Marit Stiles: Sure. Thank you very much for coming here today. When did you retire, if you don’t mind me asking?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: June.
Ms. Marit Stiles: So congratulations on your retirement.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: I’ve got parole, yes.
Ms. Marit Stiles: How many years, was it, that you were teaching?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Just about 30.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Wow.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Yes.
Ms. Marit Stiles: So a big change.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: A lot of changes. A lot of changes, yes.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Well, congratulations—
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Thank you very much.
Ms. Marit Stiles: —and thank you for coming in here today.
As you probably heard us with the previous appointee, we were talking a little bit about some of the issues we’ve had with this government and this committee in terms of just actually getting a chance to talk to people who are being appointed. So, it’s really refreshing to have the opportunity to ask questions and to review people’s motivations, things like that.
Of course, we do also ask about political connections, so I hope you understand that we’ll have to ask you those same questions. I appreciate your explanation of some of the motivation you had for doing this. But I do want to ask you whether or not you are a member of any political party.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: No.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Okay. And have you ever donated to the Conservative Party, the Progressive Conservative Party?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: No.
Ms. Marit Stiles: And did anybody approach you to apply for this position?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Nobody approached me. I was at a dinner party where somebody had mentioned there were Trillium GRT positions. I was actually thinking about retiring at that point, so I’m thinking ahead. So I thought that’s something I might be interested in getting involved with. And I said, “How do you do that?” They go, “You have to contact Donna Skelly,” so I emailed Donna Skelly. She gave me the online information. I just applied online.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Is she your MPP?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: No, she’s not. Andrea Horwath is.
Ms. Marit Stiles: But because she was the government member or whatever, I guess—
Mr. Dan Panagakos: I have no idea. Yes, I don’t know.
Ms. Marit Stiles: And so you don’t have any personal relationships with the Premier or his staff or anyone?
Mr. Dan Panagakos: No. I don’t know anybody. I’m just a lonely teacher.
Ms. Marit Stiles: I know. I hear you.
I’ve got to tell you, I am very tempted to ask you questions about education, because I am the education critic, but I’m not going to put you in that position today. But I do find it really interesting, the way you described what your experience has been as a teacher and how that has kind of brought you to this place of seeing how you could contribute. So I appreciate that.
Do you have any questions?
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Mr. Natyshak?
Mr. Taras Natyshak: I don’t, other than to thank you for your years of service to our public education sector.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Thank you. It was fun. It was a good career. I was very, very, very lucky. The students were amazing in that school.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Well, you seem like an engaging teacher too, as well, and that’s so crucial.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Thank you. Well, part of being a history teacher is a bit of lunacy. You’ve got to be a little on the edge.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Keep it interesting.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: I think everybody who has ever had history knows that. So it’s a lot of fun, actually. It’s a great subject to teach, so I was lucky.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Well, I wish you all the best, and thanks so much for putting your name forward.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Thank you very much, everybody.
Okay. I’m good?
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): That concludes the questioning. It doesn’t conclude the time allotted, but it does conclude the questioning, so you may step down.
Mr. Dan Panagakos: Thank you. Have a nice day.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): We will now consider the intended appointment of Mark Borer, member, Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Mr. Will Bouma: I move concurrence in the intended appointment of Mark Borer, nominated as member for the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Concurrence in the appointment has been moved by Mr. Bouma. Is there any discussion? Seeing none, I’d like to call a vote. All those in favour? Any opposed? Seeing none, that is carried.
We will now consider the intended appointment of Dan Panagakos, member, grant review team—Hamilton (Ontario Trillium Foundation).
Mr. Will Bouma: I move concurrence in the intended appointment of Dan Panagakos, nominated as member for the grant review team—Hamilton (Ontario Trillium Foundation).
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Concurrence in the appointment has been moved by Mr. Bouma. Is there any further discussion? Seeing none, I’d like to call a vote. All those in favour? Seeing none opposed, that is carried.
Our next agenda item is deadline extensions. The deadline to review the intended appointment of Chris Kautzky, selected from the November 1, 2019, certificate, is December 1, 2019. Do we have unanimous agreement to extend the deadline to consider the intended appointment of Chris Kautzky to February 18, 2020? I heard a no.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Point of order.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Mr. Natyshak.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: This seems like a routine where we don’t extend the certificates for us to review, and I would remind members of the government that today went pretty well—pretty harmless and actually effective. They have nothing to be afraid of, and we would hope that they’d change the course of action because it was actually important that we hear from today’s deputants. I think it justifies the role of this committee and its members and validates your roles as members of this House. Let’s do our job and make sure that we give all due consideration and flexibility to those who want to come and tell us about their motivations and their experience so that the public can be better served.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Thank you, Mr. Natyshak. That wasn’t technically a point of order, but—
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Oh, it wasn’t.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Ms. Stiles?
Ms. Marit Stiles: I actually have a question. Should I wait till the end of this? I have a question regarding this particular unanimous consent.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): The floor is yours.
Ms. Marit Stiles: I’m just wondering if we could have some explanation of why that person was unable to attend in the time provided.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Ms. McCauley.
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Jocelyn McCauley): Once we receive a certificate on a Friday, selections are required by the following Thursday, and then from that original Friday, it’s a 30-day deadline. That’s set out under the standing orders. Once that deadline expires, then the appointment basically goes through. In this case, we ask for unanimous consent because under the standing orders we’re permitted to ask for unanimous consent to extend any of the deadlines under standing order 108(f). In this case, that’s why we’re asking for unanimous consent.
Ms. Marit Stiles: So that person was not able to attend within the 30 days. Can you remind me where that person resides?
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Jocelyn McCauley): I can look it up for you, if you would like.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Yes. Thank you.
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Jocelyn McCauley): Toronto.
Ms. Marit Stiles: It’s odd that this person couldn’t make it here within 30 days. You want an appointment; presumably you should be willing to appear before this committee. It’s unfortunate that the members opposite won’t agree again. As my colleagues here mentioned, this is a normal part of the process. These two gentlemen who appeared here today conducted themselves wonderfully, and we were able to ask them important questions that Ontarians have a right to have answers to. I know we’ve talked about this before, but I think it would be really beneficial to the committee to have people be required to tell us why they can’t appear. If it’s a personal reason, if they don’t live near Toronto, what can we do?
Mr. Will Bouma: Point of order.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Yes.
Mr. Will Bouma: Could we return to the orders of the day, please?
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Technically, the question that you posed has been answered. Mr. Natyshak.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: On a point of order, Chair, through you: When we do connect with appointees and we schedule a date or slot them into a date, do we ever offer the ability for them to teleconference into this committee, or is that something that is available for us?
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Jocelyn McCauley): This is the one committee that doesn’t allow teleconference.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: It doesn’t allow it by statute?
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Jocelyn McCauley): Yes, the Public Appointments Secretariat covers any travel costs, so for that reason—it is the one committee that automatically does cover the travel costs so it’s the one committee that we don’t allow teleconference, since they do appear in person for their interview.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Okay.
Ms. Marit Stiles: May I ask a question?
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Ms. Stiles: a question.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Is that in the standing orders? Is that something that could be changed by a motion to this committee?
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Jocelyn McCauley): I can look specifically into it and then provide the information about how it would be changed.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Could you at the next meeting?
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Or video conference.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Great. Thanks.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Number 2: The deadline to review the intended appointment of Arun Prasad, selected from the November 1, 2019, certificate, is December 1, 2019. Do we have unanimous agreement to extend the deadline to consider the intended appointment Arun Prasad to February 18, 2020? I heard a no. We do not have unanimous consent.
Number 3: The deadline to review the intended appointment of Gail M. Ardiel, selected from the November 1, 2019, certificate, is December 1, 2019. Do we have unanimous agreement to extend the deadline to consider the intended appointment of Gail M. Ardiel to February 18, 2020? I heard a no.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Point of order
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Ms. Stiles.
Ms. Marit Stiles: I have a question: Can you explain again if there was any rationale given by these last two potential appointees for not being able to appear here within the 30 days?
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Jocelyn McCauley): Based on the list that we receive, we basically work our way down the list in scheduling. Because of the number of Tuesdays available within that 30-day period, a number of these individuals have not been contacted yet—I’d say the bulk of them. So we wait—
Ms. Marit Stiles: So we haven’t even been able to give them an opportunity yet. Wow.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: To get an answer.
Ms. Marit Stiles: To get an answer from them. That’s really unfortunate.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Thank you. Number 4: The deadline to review the intended appointment of Deepak Ruparell, selected from the November 1, 2019, certificate, is December 1, 2019. Do we have unanimous agreement to extend the deadline to consider the intended appointment of Deepak Ruparell to February 18, 2020? I heard a no.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Chair, point of order.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Mr. Natyshak.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Thanks, Chair. The extension date was until February the what, sorry, again?
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): The 18th.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: The 18th. If the legislative calendar stays as it is, that would mean that members of this House are on winter recess and wouldn’t necessarily have the challenges of day-to-day routine proceedings and all the other things that sort of intersect with our calendar.
What I’m saying is that it would ostensibly clear up our calendar as members of this House to be able to deal with this backlog. Is that fair to say? We’re not in normal session at that time so we would have more time freed up to be able to—
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): To answer your question, this committee has the ability to sit when the House isn’t in session.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Thanks, Chair. I appreciate that.
The Chair (Mr. John Vanthof): Number 5: The deadline to review the intended appointment of John Carmichael, selected from the November 1, 2019, certificate, is December 1, 2019. Do we have unanimous agreement to extend the deadline to consider the intended appointment of John Carmichael to February 18, 2020? I heard a no. There is no unanimous consent.
Number 6: The deadline to review the intended appointment of Randolph William Nickle, selected for the November 1, 2019, certificate, is December 1, 2019. Do we have unanimous agreement to extend the deadline to consider the intended appointment of Randolph William Nickle to February 18, 2020? I heard a no. We have no unanimous consent.
Seeing no further discussion, I would like to call this meeting adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 0956.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Chair / Président
Mr. John Vanthof (Timiskaming–Cochrane ND)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr. Taras Natyshak (Essex ND)
Mr. Will Bouma (Brantford–Brant PC)
Mr. Lorne Coe (Whitby PC)
Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto (Mississauga–Lakeshore PC)
Mr. Parm Gill (Milton PC)
Mr. Taras Natyshak (Essex ND)
Mr. Rick Nicholls (Chatham-Kent–Leamington PC)
Ms. Marit Stiles (Davenport ND)
Mr. Vijay Thanigasalam (Scarborough–Rouge Park PC)
Mr. John Vanthof (Timiskaming–Cochrane ND)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr. Vincent Ke (Don Valley North / Don Valley-Nord PC)
Clerk / Greffière
Ms. Jocelyn McCauley
Staff / Personnel
Mr. Andrew McNaught, research officer,