Wednesday 7 August 1996
Dr Roger Higgin
Mr Bob Hopkins
Mr Douglas Colbourne
Mr Anthony Annunziata
Mrs Nancy Slater
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Chair / Président: Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt ND)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie ND)
*Mr RickBartolucci (Sudbury L)
Mr BruceCrozier (Essex South / -Sud L)
Mr EdDoyle (Wentworth East / -Est PC)
*Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber PC)
Mr GaryFox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings /
Prince Edward-Lennox-Hastings-Sud PC)
*Mr MichaelGravelle (Port Arthur L)
Mr BertJohnson (Perth PC)
Mr PeterKormos (Welland-Thorold ND)
*Mr FloydLaughren (Nickel Belt ND)
Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot PC)
*Mr TonyMartin (Sault Ste Marie ND)
Mr DanNewman (Scarborough Centre / -Centre PC)
*Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand PC)
*Mr BobWood (London South / -Sud PC)
*In attendance /présents
Substitutions present /Membres remplaçants présents:
Mr TedArnott (Wellington PC) for Mr Doyle (afternoon)
Mr HarryDanford (Hastings-Peterborough PC) for Mr Doyle (morning)
Mr ErnieHardeman (Oxford PC) for Mr Johnson
Mr BruceSmith (Middlesex PC) for Mr Newman
Mr WayneWettlaufer (Kitchener PC) for Mr Leadston
Clerk / Greffier: Mr Todd Decker
Staff / Personnel: Mr Lewis Yeager, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 1008 in room 228.
The Chair (Mr Floyd Laughren): The committee will come to order. We have a fairly complete day ahead of us with a review of appointments. We should start out with the agenda item on the subcommittee report.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): I move adoption of the subcommittee report.
The Chair: The adoption of the report has been moved. All in favour? Opposed? It's carried. Thank you for that, Mr Smith.
Review of intended appointment, selected by third party: Roger Higgin, intended appointee as member, Ontario Energy Board.
The Chair: The next item of business is the intended appointment of Mr Roger Higgin to the Ontario Energy Board. Mr Higgin, if you would take a seat. I know you're not unfamiliar with this room. The committee is pleased that you're here this morning. We welcome you here.
Dr Roger Higgin: Thank you, Mr Chairman. I did prepare a short opening statement, and if it would be appropriate, I'd like to read that. I believe members have been provided with copies.
Mr Chairman, members of the committee, it's an honour to be the Premier's nominee for appointment to the Ontario Energy Board. I welcome the opportunity to review my qualifications with you. I'm going to start with a quick summary of my background and relevant experience and then address the qualities that a board member requires and why I have both the desire and capability to fill this important position.
As my résumé indicates, I'm a professional engineer with a doctorate in chemical engineering and specializing in field technology and combustion. I also hold a Master of Business Administration and I have almost 30 years of work experience in the public and private sectors in the energy and environment fields.
For the last 10 years I've held a number of senior-level policy and program positions in the Ontario government, in a municipal government and in the private sector. I'd just like to highlight a few of my achievements from the Ontario government days.
I served in many environmental and energy positions with the ministries of environment and energy -- they were then separate ministries -- ranging from district officer, secretary of the lead task force here in Toronto, head of special studies with the air resources branch, and between 1984 and 1988 I was responsible for implementing the Energy Efficiency Act and a comprehensive portfolio of energy efficiency programs as assistant deputy minister in charge of Ontario's renewable energy and conservation programs division. I was also for a time president of Ontario Energy Ventures Ltd, which was the Ontario Energy Corp's alternative energy investment company. After leaving the government in 1991 I was appointed to be chair of the energy and minerals task force of the Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy.
During my period as a full-time member of the Ontario Energy Board, which was a secondment from the ministry, between 1988 and 1991 I participated both as a panel member and as a presiding member in the whole range of proceedings before the board, including Ontario Hydro rate reviews, major gas rate cases, facilities hearings and permitting under the Petroleum Resources Act. I think I still hold the record for the fastest gas rate decision on record.
Since leaving the provincial service five years ago I've been active in the energy and environment sectors, as you see. I did a short stint as deputy commissioner of environmental services at the city of Toronto and then was hired to restructure the Canadian Gas Research Institute in Don Mills and also set up a national cooperative research and development program for the gas industry which came to be Gas Technology Canada.
I am currently responsible for a small entrepreneurial business which is now making a major transition from an R&D company to a high-technology environmental instrumentation company which manufactures and markets its products worldwide.
I'm a very results-oriented, hands-on, self-motivated person. I routinely do all my own financial analyses, spreadsheets, graphs and reports. I work long hours to ensure that external or self-imposed deadlines are met. I've also learned through the years the importance of teamwork to getting projects finished on time and budget and I work hard at listening to and communicating with my colleagues.
My background and experience I think have given me a set of technical, financial and policy analysis skills and a variety of perspectives which I believe will make me a useful and valuable member of the Ontario Energy Board.
In my experience, some of the most important qualities of a board member in adjudicating a case are the ability to listen with an open mind to the positions of the parties before the proceeding, to set aside any biases or preconceived notions you may have and to carefully and analytically review the evidence presented.
In rendering a decision, the panel as a whole will bring its collective expertise and wisdom to the complex interwoven issues before them and, while mindful of precedent, will also move the yardsticks forward based on new evidence and insights provided to them.
Although it's now five years since I was last on the front line of Ontario energy policy, with my experience I believe I can soon become knowledgeable on the issues currently facing the regulated energy sector in the province and the policy issues which the government may refer to the board.
As an energy customer I'm well aware that greater competition through deregulation of the electricity and gas sectors is a priority as a means to enhance their competitiveness in the North American world energy markets. As part of the small business sector currently, I know how tough it is to compete internationally. Success comes from being competitive in every aspect of our operations.
Having been a board member through the first wave of deregulation of the gas industry, I'm also well aware that deregulation is a complex process that requires a very careful approach to the balancing of the various stakeholder interests, not least of course the long-term interests of Ontario energy consumers and our environment.
I thrive on challenges and I find the complex mix of policy, statutory, socioeconomic, financial and technical issues involved in deregulation, or some would say regulation, of Ontario's energy sector to be very stimulating. Some people may find that surprising. I also am very mindful of the responsibility and public trust which a board appointment carries. Having already participated in and presided over every type of proceeding before the energy board, I believe my learning curve will be short, allowing me to contribute quickly to the important work of the board.
In summary, Mr Chairman and members of the committee, I'll reiterate that I like the work, I believe I'm good at it and I look forward enthusiastically to my appointment to the Ontario Energy Board if my appointment is confirmed. Thank you, Mr Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Higgin. We have a policy of allowing each party to ask you questions. We'll start with the government members, who have about three minutes.
Mr Bob Wood (London South): Do you think there's any justification to regulate price where there's effective price competition?
Dr Higgin: It depends on the word "effective" in price competition. If there is a really open market, a proper market where there are willing buyers and sellers and a means to transact the transactions between those that's open, then I think that price regulation per se may become unnecessary and redundant, once there is a truly open market.
Mr Bob Wood: In what areas do you think effective price competition is impossible in the gas industry?
Dr Higgin: As we know, it's been 10 years since the initial start of deregulation in the gas industry, which started with the deregulation of the transmission pipeline system. Right now there is a market for that commodity, "commodity" meaning the natural gas itself, and that market is reflected in the fact that there are many sellers and many buyers and also in the fact that there is a futures market, which is an indication rather of the maturity of the market for the commodity, natural gas. However, there are many other aspects to natural gas related to providing the total service, the transportation of the gas, and all those are things in which perhaps there is still not competition; there is no competition.
There are a number of natural monopolies that are in place and so the question of price regulation, coming back to your question, is one that I believe over time will evolve as the market develops and matures. I believe that the board will adapt to the marketplace conditions within the terms of its legislation.
Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): I had a number of questions for Mr Higgin, but you very ably answered them in your opening remarks, so it would be redundant of me to ask them. Welcome here.
Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): I have one question. The Ontario Energy Board reviews matters relating to Ontario Hydro. Could you tell the committee about the experience that qualifies you for dealing with these matters as a member of the board?
Dr Higgin: First of all, I believe I have a good understanding of the structure of the electric industry, if one can term it an industry, in the province, and that relates to both the physical infrastructure and to the financial and policy infrastructure that supports the electric industry. That basic understanding I believe is very valuable to being able to review matters related to Ontario Hydro, whether it be rates or other matters referred by the minister.
I also have had some experience in rate reviews when I was with the board. In fact, I presided over one of the main rate review hearings and also over a special study on the net income policy of Ontario Hydro. I wouldn't claim that any of these experiences would make me what I would call an expert in the current situation we find ourselves in with respect to electricity in this province. I'm the first to realize that I do have things I have to learn to update my knowhow about those matters before I can really become once again a valuable person to the board and participate in hearings.
The Chair: We've gone somewhat over the time so I think we'd better move on. The time of the witness and the government is rolled together. We move to the official opposition.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'd like to welcome you here this morning, doctor. I just want to comment on your opening statement. I've sat here now for around a year and this is the best-organized and best-delivered opening statement I have heard from any nominee. It outlines quite honestly, and without political preference at all, and I want to commend you on that. Obviously, your résumé shows your intense quality in qualifications and you will be an excellent reappointee to the energy board. What do you think is the biggest challenge you will face as a returning member to the board?
Dr Higgin: I think that relates to the pace of deregulation of the gas sector and also the restructuring from a business point of view, and also to the fact that there is on the public policy agenda the issue of the structuring and restructuring of the electricity sector in the province. Both of those will be big challenges, because my experience in the deregulation process is that it's always a flawed process in that you have to move incrementally. Although the long term creates the level playing field, you can't honestly say that at every stage in the process the playing field is level. It tends to be winners and losers as you go through the process of deregulation. That was the case in the gas industry and it would probably be the case also if the decision is to move ahead with further deregulation, opening up the electricity market.
I think the biggest challenge for the board will be dealing with the ongoing deregulation, the business restructuring which is happening right now in the gas industry, the reintegration, as I might call it, from producer right through to transmission company to distribution to service companies, and the possibility of lateral moves by those industries into other utility functions through diversification. Those are going to be very big challenges, to ensure the process goes ahead at a pace which will make sure that the consumers of energy in Ontario are well served and that there aren't any undue additional impacts due to those processes on the environment.
Mr Bartolucci: I'm not going to ask you whether you're in favour of or opposed to deregulation, nor am I going to ask you what your political preference is. But what I'm going to ask is -- and with your wealth of experience I think it's a fair question, but if it isn't, just say you don't feel comfortable answering and that'll be fine with me -- if you had some advice to offer the government with regard to the pace of deregulation, not only within the energy sector but in the entire Ministry of Environment and Energy, what advice would you give to the minister and to the ministry?
Dr Higgin: I'm not really knowledgeable enough to comment in the broad context of deregulation. I would perhaps make a comment similar to the one I made previously about the energy sector only, because I must say I don't have the breadth of experience to comment intelligently.
The important thing is to try to design a process and have the end point always in mind. Whatever the end objective from a public policy point of view, the government has decided always to have the end point in mind and then to design a process which is effective and efficient to move stepwise to that.
As I said before, one of the big challenges in such a process is how to avoid winners and losers, both in the business sector and in the public sector and public interest groups, how to avoid or minimize that during the process.
Both in my public life and also in my business life I tend not to be the quick-change artist. I'm not a quick-change artist. In the company I'm with now there would have been several ways in which we could have made the transition from an R and D company into what we're trying to be. I prefer the slow, gradual change process because I think people adapt better to that and things tend to be less disrupted and disjointed. So it would be to design a process and then to keep the end point in mind, not be deterred from that, but then to move cautiously, gradually and in a fair and equitable way.
Mr Bartolucci: Thank you very much, doctor. Good luck.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I share Mr Bartolucci's enthusiasm for the qualities of Dr Higgin and I'm sure you'll be an excellent returning member, so no more questions from me.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Thank you for coming before us today. I have a few questions of you. One of them is, are you or have you ever been a member of the Progressive Conservative Party?
Dr Higgin: No, I have not, and I'm not a member.
Mr Martin: That's refreshing, because it's becoming obvious to us here that 99% of the people who are being appointed these days are or have been.
Dr Higgin: I tend to vote with the issues in each election and I've voted all three ways.
Mr Martin: That's a healthy --
Mr Preston: In the same election?
Dr Higgin: No. Unfortunately, they only let you put one thing in the ballot box at a time.
Mr Martin: As a matter of fact, after the meeting of July, it wasn't just a question of whether you were a Progressive Conservative or not; it was a question of whether you were on the bus or not with the Premier as he -- wasn't it?
Mr Bartolucci: It all depends where you sat on the bus.
Mr Martin: Oh, where you sat on the bus, that was it.
Are you a supporter of the program this government is laying out for Ontario, the privatization of things that we over the years have determined collectively as government and as people were better left in the public realm, and the diminishing of the role of government in some of the more important organizations and agencies and delivery processes that we've seen as important in the province?
Dr Higgin: The only comment I would make in terms of that is that as far as the overall program is concerned, first of all, I'm not familiar with the overall program. I am familiar with some aspects of the program, and again one of the things that happens with any change is that there tends to be also two things happen: There are winners and losers, and secondly, there tends to be a disruption of certain things.
Being a member of the small business sector, for example, although we would all probably agree that the cancellation of some of the government support programs to the small business sector is a good idea in the long term, in the short term it has disrupting effects on some small businesses that have come, perhaps incorrectly, to rely on some of those support programs. I think again it's a case of being conscious of what the impacts of any changes are and to try to minimize the disruption and the negative aspects of change. I think there has been a perception that not this province, but many provinces, have sometimes been overregulated and the balance is the question the government of the day has to address, and finding that balance is not an easy thing.
Mr Martin: I find it interesting that a person of your obvious experience and knowledge, and I was impressed with your résumé and your presentation, would not be aware of the agenda of this government as it was laid out in the election, in the Common Sense Revolution, and as it is beginning to show its face in reality in a little over a year as we've seen the government determined to do what it said it was going to do, and to give it credit for that.
My concern is that a lot of the plans that are being put into place that affect all of us in our daily lives, in our working lives, are not well-thought-out. There's no business plan. You yourself mentioned that you like to focus on the end product, that you're not a quick-change artist, but we have a lot of that going on these days, a lot of quick decisions about things that affect people very directly and in a very negative and difficult way. In my own jurisdiction, for example, where jobs are disappearing just overnight, people aren't sure what they're supposed to do, communities aren't sure what they're supposed to do. This seems to be the plan of this government. As I said, nothing thought out.
In the report of the Macdonald commission, for example, there was no financial information given to justify or support the recommendations he's made re Ontario Hydro. What's your opinion on that? If it turns out that down the road very quickly we discover that this is not in fact in the best interests of Ontario and the people of Ontario, what's your position going to be in this and will you continue to support, as you've said you do, to some degree, the agenda of this government?
Dr Higgin: I think the Macdonald report is dealing with perhaps one of the most complex issues in the energy sector and therefore the role that I see myself playing at the Ontario Energy Board will depend strictly on what are the references the Minister may wish to send to the board to take a look at. Our job there would be to do a very professional job in doing those analyses, looking at those impacts, looking at the financial implications of anything that was referred to us. I believe the role of the board, in such a case that the minister decided to refer certain matters related to the electricity sector to the board, is to do that professional homework and to present a fully professional report which deals with all aspects, the socioeconomic aspect not least in terms of the impacts.
Mr Martin: What if you find that you just plain don't have enough information and you're being pressured to make a decision, to make a recommendation, to give advice? For example, the Intervenor Funding Project Act, which has been eliminated, gave some resources to some people to come forward and present -- you talk about socioeconomic impact -- their perspective, the information they've gathered to a board such as the one you're being appointed to as you make very important decisions or make very important recommendations. What if you find out you just don't have enough information? What will you do then?
Dr Higgin: In my experience with the board, when the board doesn't have enough information to make a decision, it says so. It would only make recommendations on those things on which it felt it had adequate information and the basis to make a recommendation. If it's a case of a reference, it's a recommendation, or if it's a case that is under its jurisdiction or its statutory authority, a decision. In my experience, I can point to some of the reports I was involved in and also some of the decisions where we simply say we did not have enough information to make a decision or recommendation and basically defer the matter. So again, that would be my view of the way the board would address it if there was inadequate information.
Mr Martin: You have to understand we only have a few minutes here today to determine in our own minds whether in fact we can support your appointment to this board or not. I need to know what kind of intestinal fortitude you're going to have re the question of decisions you will make and advice you will give the government around questions of how we regulate and how the issue of power, energy to the people of Ontario gets delivered.
I just need to know if at the end of the day, sometimes a very short day, on a very important issue, you are being forced to make a decision -- this government has certainly a track record of making quick decisions, particularly during the summer, about issues that are very important when people aren't looking, aren't paying attention in the way they might at other times of the year -- you're asked to give advice, will you stand up and say, "Whoa, this is going too fast; this isn't enough; we don't have enough information here," and run up a red flag for all of us?
You're going to be in a privileged position and have at your access some privileged information and be that watchdog for us if in fact something is happening that's not in our best interests. I need to know. I need to feel comfortable that you will stand up for me in that kind of situation and say, "No, this just isn't good enough." Again, I refer back to the Macdonald commission --
The Chair: Perhaps you could wind up.
Mr Martin: Okay -- which suggested that Ontario Hydro be privatized in many significant ways without the financial information that we need to really make a proper decision about that. Where would you be on that?
Dr Higgin: I would respond as follows: Having been through a somewhat analogous -- but I think one should caution about drawing too close analogies to the deregulation of the gas industry in the province, remembering that is a 10-year process which is not yet complete, although we've made a tremendous movement towards deregulation and creation of a gas market. I think the board's record on that would say that it was an adequate watchdog for the province and the energy consumers of Ontario and their best interests and that the process that went on, although one could point to some flaws in it sometimes, was one which did serve the people of Ontario and their interests well. I have no reason to believe that the board would not similarly follow a similar process with that objective in mind of serving the people of Ontario.
The Chair: Mr Higgin, that's the amount of time we have available to discuss your appointment with you. The process now is that later the committee will debate a number of intended appointments. You are welcome to either stay in the room or take your leave; it's entirely up to you. But thank you for your appearance here and the way in which you've answered questions from committee members. We appreciate it.
Review of intended appointment, selected by third party: Bob Hopkins, intended appointee, Hanover Police Services Board.
The Chair: The next intended appointment is Mr Hopkins. Welcome to the committee. You are welcome to make an opening statement, if you wish, or we can proceed directly to the questions. We're in your hands.
Mr Bob Hopkins: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Bob Hopkins. I'm here before you today to apply for this appointment. I live in the town of Hanover, which is approximately two and a half hours from your great city of Toronto. I've been in business for 28 years. I have been married for 31 years and am still raising four daughters.
I have been a member of different service clubs in the town of Hanover. If I may highlight a wee bit, I've been the president of the Jaycees club for two of my six years in the organization; I was vice-president of the Kinsmen club for four years; I was president of the Hanover Barons hockey club for two years and I also was a member on the board for nine years. With these three positions, I have learned to deal with budgets, but most of all, and the most important thing, I have learned to deal with people. I feel at times listening is the best thing a person can do because you learn.
To sum up, ladies and gentlemen, I talk to many people from day to day in my business on all issues. I learn from these people. I like to think that one of my strong points is my ability to listen and learn. To sum up, I have a lot of respect for the people in my community and our police force. Thank you.
Mr Preston: The town council doesn't approve the budget set out by the Hanover Police Services Board. Are you aware of the appeal avenue that can help resolve this issue?
Mr Hopkins: Yes, I am, but at the same time, being that I've never been appointed to this board before, when I was talking to the chairperson -- I tried to do my homework before I could come here -- unfortunately a lot of the information she wouldn't disclose to me because I have not been appointed yet.
Mr Preston: Okay, that's understandable. All right. What is your feeling about amalgamation of the current police services with neighbouring communities?
Mr Hopkins: Amalgamation is a good avenue to explore as long as it is in the best interests of our community. Where I live we have four towns very close by, Hanover probably being the largest community. I feel amalgamation can work in our four communities providing we can sit down and discuss and come up with a resolution of what is best for our area, not best for each little town.
Mr Ford: What goals do you have in mind for the board if appointed?
Mr Hopkins: I cannot really comment on this issue at this given time, but at the same time I think to secure and to continue the kind of policing our town has been used to. I'd like to see that maintained if it's possible financially and otherwise.
Mr Ford: What are some of the challenges that face the police in your community?
Mr Hopkins: That's a very good question. I think every day is a challenge for any police officer. We're a fairly tight community. I don't know if any of you have been to Hanover. It's beautiful country, a beautiful town. We're very close-knit. I feel that our police services are excellent. I would not like to see that diminish in any way, shape or form. Being a father of four girls, I could let my kids go for a walk morning, noon and night. I don't know if that's possible down here in the big city.
Mr Ford: What are the problems they have there right now? Do they have any serious problems?
Mr Hopkins: If so, I am not aware of them.
Mr Ford: Being a barber, you should be.
Mr Hopkins: Well, there are issues that can be discussed and issues --
Mr Ford: Pardon my humour, but that's a fact.
Mr Hopkins: You do get to learn a lot from different people. At the same time, you've got to try to separate what is truth and what is fiction, and what is one's belief and what's another person's belief. Again, you've got to learn and listen to what people are saying and arrive at a happy medium.
Mr Ford: You don't see any outstanding problems there right now?
Mr Hopkins: Not to my knowledge, no.
Mr Bob Wood: We'll reserve the balance of our time.
Mr Bartolucci: Welcome, Mr Hopkins. Let me tell you, if you're the barber in the community, you know everything. There is absolutely no question about that. When I was running during the campaign, I had six barbers who were supporting me actively; the rest of them, with the exception of one, not very actively. I'd just go to those six areas and say, "What are the people feeling in the community?" and they'd tell us. You have a pulse of the community, there's no question.
Mr Hopkins: Very much so, a very strong pulse. My question back to you, sir, would be, if you talked to six, which one did you go to for your haircut?
Mr Bartolucci: Actually, I will ensure that Ugo the barber knows that you really confirmed that he is the excellence in barbering skills and that you, a fellow barber, were very happy with the way the hair was cut. I would suggest that if that were any different, you should visit Sudbury while I visit Hanover, because I want to find out a little bit more about the policing, and you can find out a little bit more about the barbering skills of the Sudbury barbers.
But let's get serious for a second because there are some very serious issues. Did I hear you say that you are in favour of centralization, that you're in favour of amalgamation of forces?
Mr Hopkins: No, that was not what I led the member to believe. Like I said earlier on, I like the police force the way it is. It's served our community very well. They have the respect of everybody plus myself in the community. I think -- and this is my own opinion -- regardless of whether we put on a suit, whether we put on a uniform of what nature, that doesn't gain you respect. You must earn that every day. With that, I would like to see our municipality's police force stay the way it is. Unfortunately, there are changes happening. Whether we have to go along with those changes I'm not sure, but amalgamation would be one avenue to explore if it came to that.
Mr Bartolucci: But you're not in favour of amalgamation at this point in time?
Mr Hopkins: Not at this point in time, no.
Mr Bartolucci: Have you read the minister's paper entitled Review of Police Services in Ontario: A Framework for Discussion?
Mr Hopkins: I got that yesterday when I was getting in my car to come to Toronto.
Mr Bartolucci: As a probable appointee, it's an interesting paper to read because there will be some concerns that you have as an appointed member to a police services board. You haven't had an opportunity to spend any time with it?
Mr Hopkins: Not fully, no.
Mr Bartolucci: Give us your views on community-based policing, please.
Mr Hopkins: Can you be a little more direct?
Mr Bartolucci: You will know that there is a movement afoot across Ontario to implement -- and Sudbury was the leader here; the Nickel Basin was a leader here, in fact -- with regard to community-based policing. I'd like to know if the town of Hanover is involved in community-based policing, and if not, would you as a board member involve them in that?
Mr Hopkins: I don't know at this given time if they are. Again, that's another avenue to explore. I think what it comes down to is what we as a municipality can afford if we are going to stay a municipal police force.
Mr Bartolucci: I think community-based policing is the way of the future in policing, and you might go on to become very familiar with that. I would hope that as an appointee you would certainly sing its praises and its values around your board.
You cut -- and I'm being serious here -- policemen's hair, I'm sure, some police officers' hair.
Mr Hopkins: Yes, I do.
Mr Bartolucci: Then I know that they've probably talked to you about this, and maybe you can relay to the committee their views on the Ontario police complaints commission.
Mr Hopkins: To be quite honest, because the officers who come into my place of business are out in front of the public on a day-to-day basis, I always practise not to pry into the community's police force until I'm fully aware of what I'm talking about. There is no use taking your left foot out of your mouth if you're going to shove your right foot in. Yes, they do comment, but not in that area. They speak generally about: "Are you happy with this? Are you happy with our hockey team? Are you happy with the way the town is being run per se today?" They ask me in return, "Have you heard of anything off-colour?" if I can use that term.
I know I'm repeating myself, but I feel we have an excellent police force, and if we can afford to maintain that, then fine.
Mr Bartolucci: What do you want to bring to the board?
Mr Hopkins: What I want to bring to the board are my leadership, my ability to listen and hopefully my ability to learn and make it a better community to live in, not only for myself and my children but for my grandchildren and the people who are coming after me.
Mr Bartolucci: You know the makeup of the board. The makeup of the board is partly municipal and partly appointed through the province. Do you see any problems with that at all?
Mr Hopkins: Not at this given time. We have only three members on our board right now. I am led to believe it is a board of five. I guess that's one reason why I'm here. I think five is a good number. I can't really see where there is any difficulty in that area. Again, our budget for the town -- I did learn that from some of the information I received from you people, which I couldn't get from our chairperson -- we spend approximately $882,000 a year for approximately a 12-man police force. I think our police force is very up to par. We communicate or have the communications system for our surrounding areas, which is of benefit to the municipality of Hanover.
Mr Bartolucci: You're going to be part of a board that makes major policy decisions. The police services board is an extremely important board. It dictates how the community will be protected; it dictates the confidence the community has in its police force. Of all the appointees, I take this one to be one of the most serious appointments to any board, because truly you dictate the tone and the confidence of the town or city that you'll be a part of. What are your goals for the Hanover Police Services Board?
Mr Hopkins: What are my goals? To make the Hanover police force as good as we possibly can. The leadership, I think, melts down through the system. I feel that because of the dollar issue -- again, how long we'll be able to maintain our police force, I'm not sure. I can't really put a number on that. But I do feel that my qualities -- I feel I am the right person for the job at this given time. Yes, changes will be made. What changes they are, I'm not sure. What kind of legislation is coming down for our municipality police force, I'm not sure.
Mr Bartolucci: What changes would you like to see, Mr Hopkins? What changes would you like to see in the Hanover police services?
Mr Hopkins: Changes are good if it's change for the better. I always felt like you don't make changes for the sake of making changes, because they're non-productive and they cost money. So yes, there will be changes made. But again, through what avenue, I'm not sure.
Mr Bartolucci: You personally, though, sir?
Mr Hopkins: I'm sorry?
Mr Bartolucci: You personally? You're one of the hub centres of the community. You're the barber in the community. Let me tell you, I'm serious when I say I can find out the pulse, everybody around here can find out the pulse, of a community by going to the barbershop. You hear a variety of opinions and you have an opinion yourself, I'm sure. What changes would you like to see happen in the police services board in Hanover?
Mr Hopkins: All I can say again, sir, is what I have said earlier on. I think we have a good police force, an excellent police force. It shows leadership; it shows the people in Hanover that, yes, you can move to this town and, yes, we will protect you to the best of our ability. And by having these qualities in our community -- I really feel it is good quality. Unfortunately -- or fortunately; I guess it depends how you look at it -- we are having a large influx of people moving to our area, and by having this influx, things change from day to day. So my opinion on what changes need to be taken, I can't really say. Even though I am a barber and you might think I'm the Ann Landers of Hanover, I am not, sir.
Mr Bartolucci: I don't think you're the Ann Landers of Hanover. You don't even look like Ann Landers.
Mr Hopkins: I don't have all the questions to the answers.
Mr Bartolucci: Any time left?
The Acting Chair (Mr Tony Martin): You're over time.
The Acting Chair (Mr Rick Bartolucci): Okay. Mr Martin?
Mr Martin: Just noting, Chair, that Mr Ford is beginning to get a little bite in his questioning here this morning, and maybe he might consider coming over and sitting beside me here and sharing some of my time.
The Acting Chair: Could we get back to order.
Mr Martin: I noted there was a judgement made on your haircut this morning. I was wondering how mine is doing. My father cut mine about two weeks ago.
Mr Hopkins: You're looking great, sir.
Mr Martin: I'm looking great? Okay, I'll tell him.
What are the principal responsibilities of a police services board?
Mr Hopkins: What are their responsibilities, sir?
Mr Martin: Yes, the principal responsibilities of a police services board.
Mr Hopkins: I guess to keep law and order.
Mr Martin: Pardon?
Mr Hopkins: To keep law and order.
Mr Martin: Yes, but --
Mr Hopkins: Again, I can't really comment because I tried to do as much homework as I could to come down here for this appointment, but the chairperson was leaving on holidays and the amount of time she gave me was very little, to be quite honest.
Mr Martin: There is information available in the book that was put together on the various public bodies on which people sit by appointment of order in council of the government, and in that booklet, for public perusal, is a description of the police services board and its prime responsibilities. I guess I'm a little surprised that you wouldn't have at least picked that up and read that paragraph or two, because it very specifically states what the principal responsibilities of the board are. Having discovered here that you didn't look at that, I guess I'm wondering, how is it that you became aware of the fact that there was an opening on the police services board of Hanover?
Mr Hopkins: They advertised in our local paper, sir.
Mr Martin: Okay. And then --
Mr Hopkins: I'm sorry. I can't hear you.
Mr Martin: They advertised in your local paper and you just thought that would be a good thing for you to apply to. How long ago was that?
Mr Hopkins: Well, they've been needing members apparently since May.
Mr Martin: When did you apply?
Mr Hopkins: The latter part of June.
Mr Martin: Are you a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, or have you ever been a member of the Progressive Conservative Party?
Mr Hopkins: No, I have never been.
Mr Martin: And you aren't now.
Mr Hopkins: A member of the --
Mr Martin: Of the Progressive Conservative Party.
Mr Hopkins: No, I am not a member.
Mr Martin: Who's your local member?
Mr Hopkins: Mr Murdoch.
Mr Martin: Did you talk to him at all about this position and your interest in it?
Mr Hopkins: I tried to get Mr Murdoch on the phone. Unfortunately, I guess he's a very busy man and he never got back to me. I left a message on his answering machine and he never got back to me, sir.
Mr Martin: Which then brings me to the question of my colleague from Sudbury, which is, if you don't know what the principal responsibilities of the board are, I'm not sure why you applied to be appointed to this board if you have no recommendations for change, if you find that the board is operating quite well as it is. What is your particular interest, then, in being on the board? What is it that you think you can do or would be able to do?
Mr Hopkins: I'd like to think that I answered that question before, sir.
Mr Martin: Well, maybe you can answer it again for me. I'm having a hard time hearing this morning.
Mr Hopkins: So am I, sir. I like to think that I'd bring leadership to our board. I have a general knowledge of drawing up budgets and the maintaining of budgets. I come in contact with many people in our community. It is a small community of less than 7,000 people. We have a lot of respect in our community. I feel, again, I am qualified to do this job even though I cannot answer all your questions. I'd like to be able to answer your questions, but at this given time I do not have that information, and I'm being honest about that.
Mr Martin: Okay, and I appreciate that. Do you support the initiative, the program, that this government is laying out for the people of Ontario by way of its record so far in the year and a bit that they've been government and what they've printed in their Common Sense Revolution? Do you support that?
Mr Hopkins: Yes, I do.
Mr Martin: You do. Okay. And what would you do if at some point, given that many municipalities have expressed an interest in having more control over municipal police services boards and budgets and given some of the direction this government is wanting to go in terms of amalgamating and taking control away from particular municipalities -- what if at some point what the government wanted to do to the Hanover police services was different from what you as a member of the police services board, a citizen, a barber in that community, knew very clearly that community didn't want, that it was opposed to? What side of the fence would you come down on in that kind of scenario?
Mr Hopkins: Again, amalgamation is good if it's going to be for the betterment of not only the town of Hanover but the surrounding areas.
Mr Martin: But what if the municipality of Hanover and the people of Hanover weren't in agreement with your estimation of whether it was good or not or the fact that the government saw it as in its best interests to do that? Whose side would you be on?
Mr Hopkins: I don't know if it's a question of sides, like this side of the room compared to this side of the room. I feel that what is best for my community is the most important thing. Now, by amalgamation, if you can sit down as a group and discuss things in a calm fashion and maintain respect for each and every person around this table, I think answers can be solved. But without respect and the willingness to learn and listen, we might as well go outside and put our heads in the sand.
Mr Martin: Given the record of this government of not being at all interested in consultation but just moving quickly ahead, making change regardless of the consequence, no thought-out business plan to anything, just ideologically driven -- "government is bad, the private sector is better; the less government, the better; community policing, iffy; law and order, that's what we're about" -- given the drive of this government and the obvious intent of this government to make change and make it quickly, if, as a representative of your community appointed to this commission, it began to do some things that you felt in your gut and from what people were telling you were not in the best interests of Hanover, what would you do? Whose side would you be on then?
You stated earlier that you support the agenda of this government. Where would you stand, where would you fall, in a situation where what was happening either wasn't supported by enough information, you didn't have enough information, or you felt in your heart and from what people were telling you that it wasn't in the best interests of Hanover? Where would you stand in that kind of scenario?
Mr Hopkins: Without the government, where would we all stand? I feel that your question doesn't really --
Mr Martin: I'm in the fortunate, or unfortunate, position today of being asked to vote approval or non-approval of your appointment to that commission. I want to know if you have any backbone. I want to know if you're willing to stand up and be counted in a situation where something affected your community very clearly and you felt very strongly about it, whether you'd be willing to challenge the government of the day re its agenda and what it's proposing to do.
Mr Hopkins: At that given time I would, because I do believe in our government. My question to you, sir, is, do you believe in our government?
Mr Martin: Well, I have to tell you, in the year and a bit that I've seen of them and from listening to the people in my community, I have some real concerns about what this government's doing, and I'm wondering if you do.
Mr Hopkins: Not at this given time. My community is very well represented by Mr Murdoch and our PC Party. I would like to ask you, because I cannot see your name card, are you in the second or the third?
Mr Martin: I'm a New Democrat.
Mr Hopkins: Thank you very much.
Mr Martin: I'm wondering where you would stand --
The Acting Chair: This will be your final question.
Mr Martin: For the third or fourth time -- I'm not sure how many times I've asked this question, and I know you asked your question two or three times. We're looking for some answers here and we're not getting them. Where would you stand, Mr Hopkins, in a situation where, in something of significant consequence to your community, people in Hanover felt one way and the government another in its attempt to broad-brush impose some things on the province of Ontario that you felt weren't in the best interests of Hanover?
Mr Hopkins: I like to think, because we are mature adults, that we could sit down and discuss whatever the problem might be.
Mr Martin: Well, you know, that's nice --
The Acting Chair: I will have to terminate because your time is up. We'll have to end on that answer, Mr Martin. The government has some time left. Would you like to continue with your questioning?
Mr Bob Wood: We'll waive our time.
The Acting Chair: All right. Thank you very much, Mr Hopkins, for coming before us and for commenting on the hairdo. I appreciate that. I'll tell Ugo that it was noticed. Just before you leave, who cuts a barber's hair?
Mr Hopkins: That's a good question, sir.
The Acting Chair: Will it be left unanswered?
Mr Hopkins: No, I will answer that. I have an employee. He cuts my hair and I cut his hair and it usually works out for the betterment. At this given time, I'd like to thank you for your patience, and I will not apologize if I could not answer your questions.
The Acting Chair: You don't have to apologize, sir. Thank you very much.
Review of intended appointment, selected by official opposition party: Douglas S. Colbourne, intended appointee as chair, Ontario Municipal Board.
The Acting Chair: Our next appointee is Douglas Colbourne. Welcome to the committee. Would you like to make an opening comment?
Mr Douglas Colbourne: Just a brief comment. I think you all know that I was appointed to the board in 1968 as a member. A member conducts hearings in all facets of the board. In 1976, I was appointed vice-chair of the board specifically to manage the capital expenditure section of the board, as it then was, which no longer exists.
Then in 1983, I was appointed chair of the assessment division of the board, which inherited a problem of significant proportions from the courts, which had refused to do their assessment appeals. In 1983, I was acting chair between Mr Kruger's term and Helen Cooper's term, and during that time I codified a lot of the new practices and procedures of the board and implemented them at that particular time.
Since 1993, when the new chair came in, I have been responsible primarily for the calendar, which is the main function of the assignment of all the members across the province of Ontario.
That brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about what's to be done with the board. I have a style which is known to my colleagues and members and staff, and I believe I have their confidence in the future to go ahead. I'm fairly forthright and consistent in my views and I'm a known quantity in the community. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: We have approximately nine minutes each. We'll start off with Mr Ford.
Mr Ford: The backlog cases before the OMB have been reduced in recent years. Do you have any thoughts on how this can be improved further?
Mr Colbourne: Yes. Frankly, we've improved by trying to implement all sorts of practices and processes, pre-hearing conferences, settlement hearings, informal hearings, and I can describe those in detail if you want. We have applied all of those.
We have unfortunately not had the backup case management system in place both as to staff and as to computers to help us case manage particular cases. That's coming in right now; it's under way right now. My views are generally that we have a series of files which we do not need to case manage, and I'm referring to smaller applications from municipalities, minor variances, consents and this sort of thing, which should not be managed but should be put through. This will save staff time. What I intend to do is target mainly the major projects for case management by staff and/or case management by members and vice-chairs of the board.
I'm talking about the major items such as shopping centres, what we call big-box, which is a major portion of our hearing time right now that needs a lot of attention, as well as perhaps general official plan amendments such as London is just undertaking right now. They have a major official plan amendment and supplementing bylaws, and that's going to take less time. We did it for them. It took a period of about three years. I intend to change that with early intervention by members, either in mediation or in early intervention in terms of short hearings in all the locations.
Mr Ford: I had another question, but you've already answered it, so I'll pass to the next questioner.
Mr Preston: Mr Colbourne, thank you for coming today. What is your view of the independence of the OMB?
Mr Colbourne: I've been on record as supporting the independence of the tribunal over a period of years. It might be interesting to note that I was appointed at a time when it was with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. It was transferred to the AG in 1973 and returned to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs in 1992, at the time Mr Kruger was in.
My views are that I believe that there should be the institutional and financial independence of the tribunal. It's a function of two things: It's not only where our reporting function is, but it's also a function of the tenure of the members. I am at pleasure, and one third of the board is at pleasure, at the current time. The balance are on three-year terms.
I have, over my tenure, never felt any pressure and have never had any pressure at any time in terms of an individual decision, so I have felt fairly confident. But I haven't felt overconfident, with the view that if I did not perform, I could be replaced or my order in council revoked for cause. I'm not sure of all the court decisions in that respect, but that's been my view.
The current term of three years for the appointments since the Liberal government on has caused concern, because these individuals, given the multiplicity of statutes under which we operate, for the most part take a couple of years to get up to speed to be able to handle it, and then the last year they're on their way out perhaps, so they're looking around tentatively for a job. If the ministry, which up to now has been one of the many ministries that appeared in front of us, is represented on a particular issue and that particular member coming up for reappointment is on that particular hearing, it does, I believe, if not actually, provide a perceived conflict of interest in terms of an upcoming reappointment.
Mr Preston: What needs to be done to ensure the consistency of the board's decisions?
Mr Colbourne: Ah, that's a different topic, the consistency of the board's decisions.
Mr Preston: Not really different.
Mr Colbourne: No? What has to be done, and it's been one of my recommendations, is a better training program for new-member appointments. We also have to have more consistent meetings on the consistency issue, which we have not had in the past few years. At one time, we used to have a member in charge of picking out inconsistencies in decisions and we would do it at a regular board meeting. We didn't aim at any particular members, but the issue was raised and everybody had a real good go at it. Those bearpit sessions provided some direction for the balance of the members. I think that has to be continued. I think we have to have more board meetings to focus on consistency of approach in certain applications.
We are also toying with, and I mean that respectfully, a computer format which gives you general phraseology for decision-making to assist members in formatting their decisions, if nothing else, and getting them on time.
We do currently have a review by vice-chairs before decisions are issued. All decisions are reviewed by a vice-chair and the vice-chair comments on peculiarities, if I can put it that way, or inconsistencies, and the comments are returned to the individual member. We do not interfere with the decision-making, and we can't, but the member then has the option of following or changing or altering, as the case may be appropriately, or issuing the decision as they've already seen fit.
We are attempting to provide that direction in that respect, but training in decision-writing and better training in the statutes we cover would perhaps assist to a greater degree in that respect.
Mr Preston: This government is in favour of streamlining, cutting back regulations, what have you. The OMB is mentioned in over 600 statutes. Do you have any thoughts on how streamlining can be implemented?
Mr Colbourne: There are two aspects to it. Since the legislation under which we operate comes from a multitude of places, the Planning Act through municipal affairs, and we have the assessment appeals through revenue, and our own act, which generally comes through, it's a problem of consolidation of all of those types of statutes. The main operations are only about five or six statutes: the Planning Act, the Assessment Act, expropriations, development charges and these sorts of things, so that's where primarily our business focus is.
In the area of regional government, where we are mentioned on the various regional statutes a number of times, that perhaps will be solved by, or recommendations for that might come out of, the who-does-what committee, dealing with who does what out in the municipalities and how it's going to be handled. That might be an area that you could look at that part of it.
The Chair: Mr Preston, we'd better move on to the official opposition.
Mr Bartolucci: I only have a few questions. Let me base those questions on my experiences as an alderman and as a regional councillor in the regional municipality of Sudbury. You know, and I know you know, that the regional municipality of Sudbury is made up of lower-tier municipalities. There was a problem while I sat on regional council and at the city of Sudbury: the upper tier not following through with what the lower tier wanted. Should planning be an upper-tier responsibility or a lower-tier responsibility, in your opinion?
Mr Colbourne: We've had the system where it's been passed locally and approved or disapproved at the upper tier or, as a matter of fact, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, which most municipalities really report to. I've always been in favour of returning some of our applications to the local municipalities to let them make up their own minds. You'll be interested to know that only about 3% to 5% of all municipal bylaws get appealed to the tribunal, so most of them remain with the local municipalities.
I think it's a function of whether or not there's appropriate staff support in terms of planning and recommendations for the local municipality. In a lot of cases they have to rely on the regional level to provide staffing to review applications, and I think if they had the funds at the lower level to be able to do their own planning I wouldn't have any problem with that either. That's probably a thrust of this government. I've always wanted to shove each application back to the municipality for a review on their earlier decisions but I've never been able to bring that about. I've always been in favour of that.
Mr Bartolucci: That's good. How are we ever going to get over the NIMBY syndrome? Certainly I don't think the new legislation will get rid of the NIMBY syndrome.
Mr Colbourne: No.
Mr Bartolucci: You're in a very important position and you can affect that NIMBY syndrome. How, as chair, will you do that?
Mr Colbourne: We can affect it. I'm not sure we can get rid of it.
Mr Bartolucci: I don't think you'll ever get rid of it; you're right.
Mr Colbourne: What my goal is, and I did say it in response to Mr Ford's remarks, on the minor variances, which is where you get neighbour against neighbour -- at least at that level my intention is to bring them right through the system and just put them on for a hearing. Give them one hour -- "What's your problem?" -- and make a decision. We don't have to mediate that, we just have to make a decision giving them the appropriate time because they are only issues between two individuals.
On the larger projects you're still going to get "not in our backyard" -- it's not NIMBY, but it's "not in our backyard" -- with the higher-density matters and/or where we function with the Environmental Assessment Board in the waste disposal sites. We have instituted now a pre-hearing conference mode which goes further than just procedural. We try to pin people down to what their issues are and make them face reality up front.
I had a good instance in city planning which covered the entire city of Toronto, which I was case managing at the time, and faced a couple of individuals who are repeat offenders, if I can put it that way. They appear on everything as representatives. I just faced them and told them what was expected of them and what sorts of witnesses they had to bring to challenge the other side, and they backed off. I think it's a matter of our procedures and getting firmer with people. We have the power to award costs, which we've used frugally over the years, with a couple of exceptions, and I think that's another area where we might eliminate not the people who have a serious concern but the problem people. That's about all I can recommend at the moment.
Mr Bartolucci: There was another problem, in talking with developers. They were concerned not so much with the board, because they understand that the board imposes the law and they come to a determination. They have problems with upper administration. How are you as the board chair going to ensure that administration and the board are on the same wavelength to facilitate speed? Time is money to everyone.
Mr Colbourne: Are you talking about the board's administration?
Mr Bartolucci: Yes.
Mr Colbourne: It's called upper tier by some people?
Mr Bartolucci: No, no. I'm talking about administration.
Mr Colbourne: I believe that the administration and the operations of the members of the board are my responsibility. The key part of the operation is the membership and how they operate and how expeditiously they operate and complete their functions. It's my intention to lean on the administration sufficiently to get the resources necessary to carry that out and case manage the upfront staff portion of it.
As I indicated, we have a computer system almost up. We are just getting through now the reorganization which came into place, which has suffered because of the strike and because of the settlement and because of vacations. We're just trying to get staff in place, and I think we have a more streamlined approach to things. I don't intend to waste a lot of time on irrelevant or smaller issues. Put them on, get them through the process and get them decided very quickly.
Mr Bartolucci: That leads right into my next question. You will never, ever get rid of the frivolous complaint no matter how hard or how stringent the reform is. How are you going to handle it?
Mr Colbourne: With great respect, I think there is a vehicle in the Planning Act right now which allows us to dismiss, either on motion or of our own motion, where we deem a matter to be frivolous, which admittedly has not been used too much, but in the last three months I've seen an awful lot of applications coming in from people asking for us to dismiss without a hearing. What this will involve, as procedures roll out, is more of a paper hearing. In other words, we will review the request or make the request on our own, demand a response from the opposition or the appellant, as the case may be, and then we'll make a decision on whether or not we're going to dismiss. In doing a motion to dismiss, we have to provide them with that opportunity to appear, but we have the ability to make that decision.
Mr Bartolucci: Are you going to limit that, though? That's the problem people are finding, that these frivolous complaints still are allowed the process and the process takes time and time is money.
Mr Colbourne: If I get a motion to dismiss, I'll consider it seriously and I'll make a determination. If in my view a motion to dismiss should be granted, I'll put it on for a one-hour hearing to determine and that'll be pretty well finalized unless out of that comes a serious concern of an individual.
Mr Bartolucci: I know this deals with various applications, but with this government's agenda of deregulation, in particular with the Ministry of Environment and Energy, that has a direct impact on the OMB; there's no question about that.
Mr Colbourne: It always has had.
Mr Bartolucci: It always has, you're right, but I think now that impact is greater than ever before. What guidelines are you going to establish as the chair to ensure that the environment in each individual situation is protected? I'm not asking for each individual guideline, because we'd be here forever, but there's got to be a general rule of thumb that you as the chair are going to establish.
Mr Colbourne: Prior to the establishment of the Environmental Assessment Board, the board did handle it all the way through the process. I think there was an Environmental Appeal Board at that time but then the Environmental Assessment Board was created to handle that segment of it. We sit with them jointly in certain aspects of waste management.
The environment has always been a concern to the board. I don't think there's been a period of time when we haven't "considered" the environment. It's a different level of consideration. In many hearings I've had in the last six months, there have been assessments required by the Ministry of Environment and Energy and/or municipal players themselves in terms of agriculture and/or the environment. They do in a lot of municipalities require that they provide, not assessments, but environmental reviews of the particular projects. It's a function, first of all, of the local municipality requiring them in their own process, as well as up until now the various ministries have required them for their own purposes in specific applications.
I think we're going to have to direct on our own some functions that were carried out previously by the Ministry of Environment and Energy where they're not going to be involved in the process any more. We will have to do that.
Mr Bartolucci: Thank you very much, Mr Colbourne.
Mr Martin: Thank you for coming today, Mr Colbourne. Certainly you come highly recommended by both your track record and those who have appeared before you as somebody who is fair and neutral, even high praise from Mr David Lewis Stein, who writes in the Toronto Star.
Mr Colbourne: Yes.
Mr Martin: I think you have a copy of it. I don't know what he's after here or when the second shoe falls.
Mr Colbourne: I've only met him once, three years ago.
Mr Martin: I think we can all be relatively comfortable that Mr Colbourne wasn't on the bus and that he will indeed do a good job on a board that certainly is going to be challenged. There's been a lot of change over the last few years in the way it operates, one of the biggest being just getting rid of the backlog of cases that was before it.
As a New Democrat government -- and as a member of that government and having read some of the record in preparing for today -- we tried to introduce some initiatives to shorten that and deal with it. I know that you expressed publicly some concern about it. What is the situation now in terms of backlog and how are we dealing with that?
Mr Colbourne: Currently I think we're about eight to nine months, but that's because we've been through a spring of discontent, if I can put it that way. We've had reorganization of our own staff, which has caused some disquiet among the staff, then we had the strike and the settlement of the strike and the announcements of cutbacks, which all converged at the same time. We've had surplus notices issued to a significant number of staff and we are now just getting through the bumps, which is what everybody refers to them as. We're just now getting our staff back up to complement. We're short nine people of 49 in our support staff. We're suffering again a bit in time, there's no question about it.
Mr Martin: You mention the word "reorganization." I think we all understand what that means in today's environment: downsizing, doing better with less, that kind of thing. I note here that we provided the OMB, in recognition of the fact that there was this major backlog getting in the way of development and people getting on with their business -- we increased funding by $200,000, which allowed you to bring on some new staff. You're saying that at this particular point in time that's gone. You're now at a net loss of nine staff. Is that the only --
Mr Colbourne: No. We're short nine of the complement we remain with. Out of the original 63 in the reorganization we lost 14, so 14 positions were lost in the reorganization.
Mr Martin: You no doubt feel that will have some impact on your ability to deal expeditiously with some of the cases before you.
Mr Colbourne: That's the challenge I have, to manage the downsizing. But it does bring about a better level. At one level there's an increased staff requirement in management. We are bringing on planners, which we never had before, who have a good background in the major field that we operate in, so we've upgraded some staff positions. I think we'll have a better competence at a higher level in the staff to be able to manage some of these things. As I said, some are not going to be managed at all and the others will be concentrated on.
Mr Martin: Okay. I go on to another issue re the OMB and some changes that were made by way of new legislation and the impact that has on some people I interact with particularly when I go back home to my riding as decisions are made and brought before the board. Community groups usually don't have the resources of developers and municipalities to bring their case before the board. What do you think the board can do to make sure these groups are given a fair chance to be heard?
Mr Colbourne: Certainly in the major hearings that we conduct, if there are community groups that have an issue with a particular building, we've tried in our pre-hearing process to segment. In other words, if we have a whole municipality and they only want one building, we'll segment or divide up the hearing so that they're only going to appear on the one or two days that building is going to come up. We try to give them every opportunity. We don't require legal representation and they do not need to bring planners to support their position. We will give them an appropriate time, whenever they're available, to appear at these hearings.
The problem they face is continued appearance over a protracted length of time if one issue goes over 10 days or 15 days, but what we recommend to them is to have alternates. In other words, you don't have one or two people appearing for 15 days; you have 15 people appearing individually for one of 15 days and coordinating their efforts in the evenings and discussing matters. We provide them with an opportunity to direct questions to all the witnesses during the proceedings. But that's pretty well the best we can do. We like to have every party to the proceedings, including the residents' and ratepayers' associations, provide their upfront issues so that we know where they're going, so we can assist them, if you will, in directing when they should bring their evidence in.
We do try to facilitate their representation. We're trying to, but we can't always avoid the lengthy hearings that go six weeks, eight weeks. We try to focus the issues, when the ratepayers' groups want to appear, as best we can. We can't guarantee it, but we try.
Mr Martin: To what extent do you see Bill 20 changing board decisions? Now that the policy statements are much less specific and municipalities are now only required to "have regard to" instead of requiring that their actions "be consistent with" those policies, do you see this meaning that economic considerations will take precedence over environmental considerations or socioeconomic considerations?
Mr Colbourne: Mr Martin, we actually did not deal with "be consistent with" at all because the legislation wasn't in except for a very few applications, so we really haven't had a trial on the "be consistent with." For years we've been dealing with having regard to, and we have a track record in dealing with all of those issues, having regard to the policies and having regard to the local official plans. We have a consistent record of that over the years. That was prior to Bill 163 and it's now in existence again, the same words, so we have a track record of how we've dealt with it, and I think we've dealt with it appropriately. I don't think it diminishes.
As I say, we didn't have a trial run at "be consistent with" because not very many people made applications. They either made them before Bill 163 came in or they were waiting, so we never really had a trial run. I think we would have had -- this is speculation -- a few years of litigation to determine exactly what those words meant. We're quite comfortable with having regard to, and we do have more than just a blushing regard to. We're directed to the policies that are in place. Prior to Bill 163 we had four policies of the government which we had regard to.
Mr Martin: You may have been comfortable with "have regard to," but obviously somebody wasn't --
Mr Colbourne: Yes, that's correct.
Mr Martin: -- or the big study and commission that happened wouldn't have happened.
Mr Colbourne: The Sewell commission, that's correct.
Mr Martin: Yes, the Sewell commission. What, in your mind, was the problem?
Mr Colbourne: Along with the "be consistent with," as I recall, and I haven't gone in depth in reading all the policy guidelines 163 brought along with it, I think it had a lot more policies dealing with watershed planning, dealing with those types of items. I think it perhaps directed people to look at that sort of thing seriously right up front.
My view right now is that prior to 163 it may not have happened up front, but when issues got to the board, they grew, and people directed themselves to those issues of watershed planning, of watersheds. The ministries, on circulation, in the process prior to, used to get themselves involved after the enactments locally, so we got the evidence dealing with the watersheds, dealing with the environment, dealing with all those items at our level of the process. Admittedly, it wasn't up front, and I think 163 would have made sure it got dealt with earlier and perhaps may have shortened the process by dealing with it up front.
The Chair: Mr Colbourne, that completes the time to ask questions of you. I don't think there's an elected municipal or provincial politician in the province who doesn't understand the difficulty and the importance of the OMB, and we wish you well in your difficult task ahead because we know it's an important one. Thank you for coming before the committee.
Mr Colbourne: Thanks very much, members of the committee.
The Chair: That completes the review of intended appointments for the morning. I'm in the hands of the committee about whether you wish to do the concurrences for the three we've heard from now or whether you wish to wait until the end of the day.
Mr Bob Wood: We've got 20 minutes now.
The Chair: Yes, we've got the time now if that's the wish of the committee. Is it? I think it is. Can we proceed, then?
Mr Bob Wood: I move concurrence in the intended appointment of Mr Higgin.
The Chair: Do you wish to speak to that?
Mr Bob Wood: Not yet.
The Chair: Okay. Any comments on Mr Higgin, the appointment to the Ontario Energy Board?
Mr Martin: I had some concern re Mr Higgin's understanding and willingness, even though he's obviously a very learned and experienced person, to challenge the agenda of this government, particularly if he in his wisdom saw it as not being in the best interests of the people of the province.
I didn't sense in him the urgency that I would anticipate and like in somebody appointed to this board around some of what's coming at us under the guise of privatization of some of the delivery mechanisms. I didn't sense in him any concern, for example, that in the Macdonald commission, even though it recommended very strongly that we move to privatization in a significant way, there were no financial data to show this would in any way be in the best interests of either the industrial sector out there, which is very dependent on a consistent source of energy that doesn't cost them an arm and a leg, or in the best interests of you or I, as consumers of electricity, any concern about and what it might cost us and what problems it might create for us if we move in this direction.
Given that we are moving so quickly in such an important direction, in how we're going to deliver energy in Ontario, we need people who are willing to stand up and challenge, ask the tough questions and demand that there be enough information on the table before decisions are made, to run up red flags for all of us if stuff is being rammed down our throats that isn't in the end going to be good for us. I don't sense that in Mr Higgin, so I will be voting against this appointment.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Martin. Any other comments on the motion by Mr Wood? Are you ready for the question?
All those in favour of Mr Wood's motion? All those opposed? The concurrence is carried.
Mr Bob Wood: I move concurrence of the intended appointment of Mr Hopkins.
The Chair: Any comments on Mr Hopkins?
Mr Bartolucci: Mr Chair, I'll not be supporting the appointment of Mr Hopkins. He brings no ideas with him, he brings no concerns with him, he brings no uniqueness with him, he brings absolutely no understanding with him.
I'll tell you, I thought we were rather easy on him today. I thought he could answer questions on community-based policing in the town of Hanover -- Hanover is community-based policing -- and all he had to say was, "I understand that community-based policing is this, here is how it's demonstrated in Hanover," and go with it.
We asked him about the Ontario police complaints commission, very, very simple, and he refuses to acknowledge that there are concerns about it. He does not have an understanding or a direction of where the ministry or the minister are going with police reform, but he'll "get around to it, certainly, some time."
He refused to answer every question, including the one about his hair. He was even reluctant to answer the question of who cuts his hair, at the very end. Mr Martin didn't get an answer from him on any question, and I didn't. I saw the members on the government side not exactly enthralled with the way he was presenting himself during the answering of the questions. I understand why Bill didn't return the call or didn't return the message on the machine. I don't think this is a good one.
You know I have a bias when it comes to police services boards. They are important. No one will ever, ever get me to underestimate the importance a police services board serves in a community. It is in fact the confidence of the community. Maybe in Hanover they don't care about policing, or maybe in Hanover they don't have any ideas about how to improve police services to the community. But I suggest that the residents of the community of Hanover, the people at large in the community of Hanover, have concerns about what's happening in society today, not only outside of Hanover but inside Hanover as well.
He's a nice guy. He's a barber, he's a nice guy, and I like barbers, I really do. And I like the way he presents himself; he was very, very comfortable. But you also want to have somebody who has an idea to bring. You also want to have someone who brings with him a degree of originality so that policing can be better. He doesn't have it, and he doesn't have, I think, the presence to prepare for what's ahead of him on a police services review board. It's a very serious and a very challenging and a very important position, one I don't think he adequately prepared for before the committee, and this is just an example of what will happen when he gets on the board; it is more serious than that. I will be voting against the appointment.
Mr Martin: I'm not going to be voting for this one either, basically for the same reasons as Mr Higgin. In light of the tremendous changes happening in the province so rapidly, and the impact all of that will have on the lives of all of us, the people we represent, our family, our neighbours in the communities we live in, we have to have people appointed to boards and commission who are not simply there as spokespersons, as apologists, as people who simply see the agenda of the government as the right thing to be doing and are going to just support it.
We need people who are going to stand up and ask for information, for more information if they don't think they have enough. We need people who are willing to stand up and take a strong stand if they feel it's in the best interests of their community and the province to have something looked at again, to challenge, to ask the tough questions and to work with all of us, including yourselves as government, because I know you have the best interests of this province at heart too; you just take a different approach to it than I would.
But I think it's really important, in the interests of democracy and the process and the way we do business in Ontario and the long-term future for us and for our children, that we have people appointed to boards who are willing to go the extra mile, who are willing to ask for that extra information, who are willing to stand up from time to time when they feel that what's happening is not in the best interests of the people they represent, of the community they come from. I didn't feel comfortable, as I didn't with Mr Higgin, that Mr Hopkins was willing to and was going to do that kind of homework and be that kind of person who would challenge in that way. I will not be supporting this appointment either.
Mr Bob Wood: The government does support this appointment. We feel he brings the kind of business and community experience that's needed. We think he demonstrates the sort of personal qualities needed. He's honest, straightforward, sincere, demonstrates good common sense. We think he'll be an appropriate person on the Hanover Police Services Board.
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I'd like to comment on something Mr Bartolucci raised, and that is the fact that Hanover is a very small town, north of Kitchener as a matter of fact, in my riding. I've gone through it many times. I think Mr Hopkins reflects the wishes of the people of his community. As a barber, as a small businessman, he has succeeded in his business. In a small town, you're quite aware that you have to be a decent, down-to-earth type of person, one who will reflect the views of the people of the community in order to succeed.
It's a much smaller town than Sudbury, Mr Bartolucci. If you take all the towns in the area combined, they would be much smaller than Sudbury. When he discussed amalgamation of police services, whether it would be more advantageous to the area than to his own town, I thought he used a fair amount of common sense, and for that reason I was impressed with him.
The Chair: Thank you for that. Any other comments? Is the committee ready for the question? You appear to be. All in favour of Mr Wood's motion? All those opposed? The motion is carried.
Mr Bob Wood: I move concurrence in the intended appointment of Mr Colbourne.
The Chair: Any comments on Mr Colbourne's appointment?
Mr Martin: I'm going to be supporting this appointment. I see in this gentleman the strength of character to stand up and be counted on issues, to work hard to make sure that people are listened to and involved in the process. As some have said in my preparing for today's meeting, I see him as a person who is fair and neutral and is going to act, I think -- I feel, I hope -- in the best interests of the province. I'll be supporting it.
The Chair: Thank you for that. Is the committee ready for the question? All those in favour? It's carried unanimously.
That completes the review of and concurrences in this morning's appointments. We reconvene at 2 o'clock to consider Mr Annunziata and Ms Slater. We are adjourned.
The committee recessed from 1154 to 1406.
The Chair: The standing committee will come to order. Mr Martin?
Mr Martin: On a point of privilege, I suppose, I'd like to raise the issue of Mr Richardson and the fact that we weren't able to have him come before us for an interview. We requested him, as we were called to do by the standing orders, back in July some time, I believe, and we had 30 days within which he was to respond with a time that would be convenient for both him and us. We weren't able to find one. The times we were sitting, he was away.
So the last time we gathered in July, I asked for a 14-day extension -- I was under the impression that it's in the standing orders that we can ask for that -- so we could have him in here and have our usual discussion and get on with business. In the interim, there was a decision rendered by the public appointments secretariat, in its wisdom, to suggest that the requesting of the 14 days at the end of the period as opposed to the beginning of the period was out of order. So they went ahead with the appointment of Mr Richardson to the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, and he's not coming before us.
I want to say a couple of words about the decision that was made by the secretariat, and I would ask the clerk to comment on it. I've already spoken to him briefly about it. I want to say as well that I appreciated the fact that Mr Wood, whip for the government caucus, was kind enough to inform me of this decision yesterday so that I would be aware and be able to speak to it today. I sensed that there was some sympathy from him re the question of having somebody in here and the 14 days and all of that. I don't think it's a bone of contention among any of us around the table here; it's just a judgement that was rendered by the secretariat that I think could have been different and would have allowed me -- us -- the privilege we enjoy as members of this standing committee to interview, from time to time, people whom we see as perhaps interesting or necessary in order to fulfil our mandate.
Anyway, the secretariat decided that since we hadn't asked for the 14 days at the beginning when we first requested that Mr Richardson come before us, we were out of order asking at the end. I simply state that had we known Mr Richardson wasn't going to be able to come within those 30 days, we would have asked for the extra 14 days so we could have accommodated and allowed him the opportunity to come. But we didn't; we asked for it when we found out that he couldn't come.
It's suggested by the clerk that some of the problem here is that the rules change somewhat in the interim compared to what they are when the House is sitting re our being here and our ability to get the things quicker and deal with them.
I don't know what to say except that I feel that my privileges, our privileges, have been dealt with in a somewhat shabby manner by the secretariat in making the decision it did. I don't know why the hurry there to have this appointment made, why they couldn't have waited until today, until we could have met with Mr Richardson and had that little exercise dealt with and done.
I don't know what it is in the appointment of Mr Richardson that he wasn't able to be here. I give him the benefit of the doubt that during the first 30 days he was out of the province and wasn't able to be here. The next 14, and why it wasn't convenient for the secretariat and he and those involved to have him come -- except that it's interesting to note that he's not a resident of Ontario. He's a resident of Quebec. I don't know if you knew that. The government is now appointing an appointee to the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission who is a resident of Quebec. What expertise and knowledge he brings would have been interesting to ask, had he come before us, to find out why it is that we had to travel so far to have somebody.
Mind you, when you look at the headquarters of the ONTC in North Bay, Quebec being just down the road, Timiskaming, maybe there isn't quite the difficulty there that I had thought, although it is interesting to note that we also saw in the last month or so -- my colleague Mr Gravelle from Thunder Bay may have some comment about this, I don't know; maybe we can talk about it in private later -- an appointment from northwestern Ontario to the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. I found that interesting in that there is absolutely no activity any more by the commission in northwestern Ontario. They have pulled completely out of that huge part of the province, and to have somebody from northwestern Ontario sitting on a commission that deals totally with northeastern Ontario was interesting, to say the least. But now to have somebody from Quebec appointed and not to be able to ask that person some questions about what it is he brings that's so particular that we couldn't find anybody in Ontario is interesting.
Again, as I did last time we sat, I suggest that further appointments to this commission -- it's getting really interesting as this whole thing unfolds. Last time, there was a woman appointed. We didn't have her in front of us either, because we didn't find out early enough, but apparently she's the sister-in-law of Cindy Boston, who is an administrative executive with the commission and did contribute in some way to the Nipissing PC riding association -- you know, just lots of intrigue here.
Mr Bartolucci: She's the one who had no ideas.
Mr Martin: No, that was another one. It's an interesting bunch we're putting together. I feel we really need to do everything within the parameters we have here to make sure we get as many of these folks in as possible so we can talk to them and find out what it is they bring to the commission. The commission, as we have all stated, on this side of the room anyway, is absolutely fundamental. What they do by way of transportation services and the managing and provision and coordination of our transportation services in northern Ontario is absolutely essential and fundamental to any activity, whether it be in terms of the economy, health, social, whatever.
Transportation is one of those things that we just can't do without up there, so the people we appoint to this commission and our opportunity to speak to them, particularly those of us who represent that part of the province, about what they bring to the commission, what their hopes and aspirations are, what challenges they see us all facing, is really important, and in this instance the secretariat itself, which is not a political body but bureaucratic -- maybe it is a political body. Yes, I guess it is a political body. I suppose the decision that was made this last week or two to not extend us the privilege of the 14 days so we could interview Mr Richardson suggests it is a political body and is entering into a realm that we would hope it would keep its fingers out of. It has made a decision that infringes, in my mind, Mr Chair, on my privileges and on the privileges of all of us here, to be unable to interview Mr Richardson before he was formally appointed to that commission.
I put that on the table. I don't know what action can be taken or what can be done to rectify this. I would be interested, though, in hearing at some point some ruling from the clerk as to the propriety of this particular decision.
The Chair: I don't think you'll find that there was anything out of order in the whole exercise. As you also hinted at, the whole issue of this particular committee meeting between sessions is really awkward and the rules don't reflect the reality of this committee. I'm not suggesting that the government members rush out and demand a whole set of rule changes at this point, but at the same time, the rules don't reflect the needs of this committee -- and they were there; I'm not pointing fingers -- do not reflect the needs of this committee between sessions. At the end of the day, the appearance of Mr Richardson depended upon the goodwill of the appointments secretariat, and unfortunately -- I view it as unfortunate myself -- that goodwill was not forthcoming. I regret that, and it may be that it will be extra-parliamentary activity that resolves it.
Mr Bob Wood: May I speak to that point of privilege? I think the situation that's arisen here was not intended as any disrespect to the committee by the secretariat. They interpreted the standing orders in the manner they thought was appropriate. I think what really happened was a situation where there was administrative error, poor communications, compounded by the fact that I was away. We've taken certain administrative steps which will hopefully avoid this kind of thing occurring in the future. There certainly is a credible case that the extension was in order and the appointee could have been called today, but as it turned out, that was not what happened in these circumstances. We're going to try and avoid this kind of thing happening again.
The Chair: Thank you for that.
Mr Martin: Does the clerk want to add any comment on that?
The Chair: It's not an interpretation of the rules we're dealing with here; the rules are quite clear, and I wouldn't want to put the clerk in a position of making a political ruling. Can we move on, then? Thank you for that.
Review of intended appointment, selected by third party: Anthony Annunziata, intended appointee as member, Ontario Racing Commission.
The Chair: The first intended appointment review this afternoon is Mr Anthony Annunziata. Welcome to the committee. If you wish, you may make a few opening comments before we proceed with questions.
Mr Anthony Annunziata: I will, and thank you very much, Mr Chair, and good afternoon.
I was born and raised in Fort Erie, which as most of you know is the home of the Fort Erie Race Track. Throughout the years, I've had friends and family work at the Fort Erie Race Track and I've had the opportunity to see at first hand the economic impact of live racing in a small community. Ladies and gentlemen, the racing industry in Ontario currently employs over 40,000 people, many of whom come from small, rural communities much like my own. Therefore, it is imperative that with policy and governance we ensure the long-term health and viability of the racing industry in Ontario. Both this government and the previous government have been proactive in trying to achieve this goal. As the economic development officer in Fort Erie and the director of economic development for the city of Port Colborne, I recognize the significant jobs at stake and am committed to preserving live racing in Ontario.
As a member of the Ontario Racing Commission, it is my hope that as a commission we can provide recommendations to both industry and government on issues facing the horse racing industry, maintain the confidence of the horsemen, the industry operators and the public, so that the integrity of the industry is never compromised. Thank you.
The Chair: Are there any questions or comments?
Mr Preston: Sir, with the fact that you are from Fort Erie and the positions you hold, can you treat Ontario racing without bias?
Mr Annunziata: Absolutely. In response to that, it's absolutely integral that live racing in Ontario be preserved. It's not on a piecemeal basis, that I'd be solely interested in Fort Erie, because it's the industry as a whole that would lead to the success of live racing overall and it's the horses that are going to bring success to particular race tracks. Without the horse stock and the investment in the industry, certainly there won't be a Fort Erie Race Track, or any other race tracks, for that matter.
Mr Preston: Then what do you think the role of the commission really is?
Mr Annunziata: The role of the commission is to regulate and to provide the environment that is conducive for investment and conducive for the growth of the industry.
Mr Ford: Mr Annunziata, what perspective would you bring as an intended commissioner? What's your outlook on this?
Mr Annunziata: My outlook on it is as I stated earlier, to protect the integrity of the industry from elements that may infiltrate the industry, that may compromise the integrity of the industry. We're interested in providing consumer confidence in the industry so that people will attend race tracks, will bet on live racing in Ontario and will invest in live racing in Ontario.
Mr Ford: What is your perspective on the new machines coming in?
Mr Annunziata: My perspective on that is quite simply that as we speak, I know Bill 75 is being discussed right now. What I've heard so far is that they are currently being discussed.
Mr Ford: Video lottery machines.
Mr Annunziata: Yes, I'm familiar with them, sir. In all honesty, without knowing too much about the terms of reference, as to what's in it for the operators and what's in it for the industry, it's unfair for me to comment on that.
Mr Ford: I can see that. Okay, that's all.
Mr Bob Wood: We'll reserve the balance of our time.
Mr Bartolucci: Let's follow up on VLTs, because they're an interesting phenomenon. I don't want you to give your views on whether you're agreeing with the government's program, but let's say they're put into the race track -- and they are going to be, you know that; the government has a majority and the reality is that that's going to happen. What effect is that going to have on individual race tracks like Sudbury Downs or Fort Erie and what are you as a commissioner going to do to ensure that the protection of the betting public who frequent race tracks is enshrined so that they can spend their money solely on horse racing as opposed to VLTs?
Mr Annunziata: As you know, the competition is growing quite rapidly with respect to the betting dollar currently out there. With respect to the VLTs, quite honestly, the race tracks themselves, as operators and as marketers, have to position themselves to be able to compete for that betting dollar. Currently, the Ontario Racing Commission doesn't regulate VLTs and would have very little say with respect to how they're implemented or where they're put. Those types of terms of reference are being discussed as we speak.
The other part of your question, sir, would have to do with the operators themselves. Currently, there are some case studies in the United States that would indicate that VLTs have been very successful at race tracks. Not to suggest or to prognosticate as to whether or not they'll be successful in Ontario, but some case studies do suggest that they have done well.
Mr Bartolucci: There's no question. All the case studies indicate that their appeal is broad, and Ontario's probably going to reflect the rest of the provinces in Canada.
We understand that the Ontario Racing Commission won't be able to govern VLTs, as you've said. Is that a concern to you as an appointee to this commission?
Mr Annunziata: My concern as a member of the commission would be solely to provide advice to the industry as to how it can position itself for success and growth. The regulation of that particular industry is not something that would be necessary in order to do that. The Ontario Racing Commission can still regulate and can still provide the environment conducive for investment without having control of the VLTs. They can work in concert, obviously, if they're going to be co-located, but as a member of the commission, certainly we would be proponents of maintaining an environment where people would want to invest in the industry.
Mr Bartolucci: Let's follow that up a little. What advice are you going to be giving to the regulators of the VLTs, personal advice, right now? What advice would you give as a commissioner with regard --
Mr Annunziata: I wouldn't give any advice to the gaming commission unless the commission was asked as a whole formally. It certainly wouldn't be my place to offer any advice to the gaming commission at all.
Mr Bartolucci: As a member of the commission?
Mr Annunziata: Yes, sir.
Mr Bartolucci: So you have no concerns, then?
Mr Annunziata: I'm not saying that, sir, but for me to offer my advice it would have to come from some type of formal request to the commission as a whole.
Mr Bartolucci: Okay. Do you have any concerns?
Mr Annunziata: I have a concern for the racing industry as a whole, that an environment be created to allow it to compete for that gaming dollar. Those are my concerns. Without the different legislation that has come forward to allow for the industry to compete, I would be very concerned, but now some things are coming into place that can allow the industry to compete, I feel very confident the industry can succeed.
Mr Bartolucci: So you have no concerns with VLTs being placed in racetracks -- I think that's what you're saying. If you believe that, say it.
Mr Annunziata: Sir, obviously I have concerns with respect to the industry, as I said, for the gaming dollar, to be allowed to compete, but when the terms of reference come out for VLTs and when they come out from the gaming commission, then we can comment on it. Until that happens, it's very difficult to comment.
Mr Bartolucci: Of the population that visits racetracks, is there a high degree addicted to horse racing?
Mr Annunziata: I am not privy to that knowledge.
Mr Bartolucci: You know that, in VLTs, it's rather astounding in Alberta and in other provinces.
Mr Annunziata: I've heard that, yes.
Mr Bartolucci: Is that a concern to you, as an appointee to the commission?
Mr Annunziata: The question is?
Mr Bartolucci: The addictive nature --
Mr Annunziata: The addictiveness of horse racing?
Mr Bartolucci: -- of VLTs, and you relied on past information in other provinces in an earlier answer. You have some information about the addictiveness of VLTs. Are you concerned about that segment of the public frequenting a racetrack when they're already addicted to VLTs?
Mr Annunziata: I think the issue of addiction itself should be a serious concern, and there's no doubt and there's no denying the fact that there are people addicted to particular things in society. I think there are mechanisms, though, to resolve or to deal with those types of addictions and it is the role of those parties to be able to deal with those addictions. For me to comment further as to my concern about the addiction would be speculating to the effect that the addiction itself is of concern to society and should be dealt with through the appropriate mechanisms.
Mr Bartolucci: Your résumé is very impressive. I say that in all sincerity and honesty. Anthony, have you ever had any political aspirations?
Mr Annunziata: Perhaps some time down the road I may consider public office, but not at this time, sir.
Mr Bartolucci: Have you ever served in a public office before, whether it be a town councillor or --
Mr Annunziata: I've served on the student council in university.
Mr Bartolucci: Yes, I got that. Anything else other than that? Are you interested in provincial politics?
Mr Annunziata: I'm always interested in following the life of Ontario politics.
Mr Bartolucci: You're starting to sound more and more like a Conservative over here, Anthony. I say that with all due respect as well. I'm just wondering. Come on, Anthony. You're Italian. Give me a straight answer.
Mr Annunziata: Well, I'm Italian.
Mr Annunziata: My interest in Ontario politics is solely that, from an economic development perspective as what I've chosen to be my career, the government look at ways and means in which the province could be a more conducive place for people to find work and seek employment, and for investment purposes so that we can have an opportunity to succeed beyond what our mothers and fathers have done.
Mr Bartolucci: And you didn't take an active role in the last campaign?
Mr Annunziata: I'm sorry, sir?
Mr Bartolucci: Did you take an active role in the last campaign?
Mr Annunziata: I was a volunteer in the last campaign.
Mr Bartolucci: Good. I want to ask you what party, but I have a sneaking suspicion, Anthony. But that's all right.
Listen, as a commissioner, what three recommendations will you bring to the commission immediately with regard to racetrack betting in Ontario?
Mr Annunziata: Certainly the one I would try to emphasize would be to create the environment to increase the horse stock in Ontario, to increase horses at racetracks so we can have more live racing. That would be of prime interest.
Secondly, the attraction of the Breeders' Cup this year in October is going to provide an excellent opportunity to showcase Ontario racing and I think the industry should take notice. I think people in North America and the world will take notice of Ontario horse racing, and as a showcase piece we can really showcase Ontario racing to invite investment, to invite more horse people to invest in the industry. I would urge operators and people who are inclined to provide marketing advice to the industry to use these pieces as a mechanism to do that.
Mr Bartolucci: What is the greatest weakness in the system right now?
Mr Annunziata: In the industry?
Mr Bartolucci: Yes.
Mr Annunziata: As far as I'm concerned, the regulatory body, the Ontario Racing Commission is doing exactly what it was set up to do, to preserve the integrity of the industry, to give voter -- not voter confidence, consumer confidence to the industry, and I think that's exactly what it does.
Mr Bartolucci: Almost a little slip there. We'll just ignore that.
Mr Martin: So who did you work for in the last provincial election?
Mr Annunziata: I was a volunteer with the MPP for Niagara South, Tim Hudak.
Mr Martin: You had a successful campaign.
Mr Annunziata: Yes, he was elected.
Mr Martin: Congratulations.
Mr Annunziata: Thank you.
Mr Martin: How did you find out about this position?
Mr Annunziata: One of the people I've been working with, a former commissioner, Mr Herb McGirr, was working in our office at the economic development in Fort Erie when he was appointed by the previous government to be on the Ontario Racing Commission. I've always been in close contact with Mr McGirr and the Ontario Jockey Club and the Fort Erie Race Track. When Mr McGirr accepted a position at the Fort Erie Race Track, I became aware that he had resigned his position and I put in an application to the commission.
Mr Martin: Did your local member for whom you worked during the election suggest that you apply for this position?
Mr Annunziata: My conversation was with Mr McGirr with respect to the industry, that it would be a good idea to try to maintain an interest in the industry. He knew that I had a passion for horse racing, that I have a passion to preserve the employment base in my area, in my community, in Fort Erie and Port Colbourne, and that there are a lot of jobs, over 5,500 jobs associated with the industry where I live and that it was very important the industry be preserved.
Mr Martin: Were you briefed on the work of the commission and are you familiar with the act?
Mr Annunziata: Yes, sir.
Mr Martin: Can you maybe explain to me in a few words what you think the commission is about and what it does and what the act is about?
Mr Annunziata: There's quite a bit of talking I'll do. To put it in a nutshell, essentially with the racing commission it all starts by handing out racing dates. It allocates racing dates to particular racetracks. It provides licences to the operators, the trainers, the jockeys, the drivers, for the particular racetracks. It appoints stewards at thoroughbred racetracks and judges at standardbred tracks to enforce the regulations of the act. Then when enforcement is handed down by the stewards and judges, the committee will assume a quasi-judicial role in hearing appeals to those fines or those acts of indiscretion and will hear and make a decision on the appellant's case.
Mr Martin: In other words, it oversees as a regulatory body and makes sure that, as you've said before, the integrity of the operation is there and all of that.
Mr Annunziata: Absolutely.
Mr Martin: Your job as economic development officer for the town of Port Colbourne and your obvious keen interest in the racing industry adds importance to your area as an economic stimulant. If it came in your role as a commissioner to a decision at some point, and I suggest it might and could very easily, of maintaining the economic entity that's there and all that entails -- and certainly we wouldn't be overseeing it in the way we are if we weren't concerned there is potential for untoward things to happen -- and your interest in making sure that it stays intact and the job you have as commissioner to oversee and to maybe make a judgement that might in some way cause the industry to come into question and therefore interfere in its success, how would you sort that out? How would you decide which side of the fence you came down on re that whole issue?
Mr Annunziata: The side of the fence I come down on quite frankly is anything that would preserve the integrity of the industry, quite simply. If it compromises the integrity of the industry, there's no point in compromising that because it will affect the entire industry, not only in my backyard but everyone's backyard. My side of the fence would certainly come down to preserve the integrity of the industry.
Mr Martin: You don't see any conflict of interest for you at all.
Mr Annunziata: I have no ties to particular people at the Fort Erie Race Track or any other racetrack in Ontario.
Mr Martin: But you have a personal interest and a professional interest in making sure that nothing happens that interferes in the overall financial success of that particular operation and the impact it has on your region.
Mr Annunziata: I'm not quite sure what you're asking, sir.
Mr Martin: You have a very personal and professional interest in making sure that this economic entity, the racetrack, stays intact and produces as much revenue and opportunity as is possible. That can often conflict with the way people interpret rules and regulations and the way they, as people are wont to do in almost any industry, stretch the rules a bit here, push a bit there to find a way to fit something in. You don't see that there may be potential for some conflict of interest for you in sitting on a commission such as this?
Mr Annunziata: Absolutely not. I think from an operator's perspective, from their profitability -- again, that's an operator initiative and that would be an operator objective. My objective is to maintain and to regulate in the industry to provide an environment where people would invest in the industry. I can't see where my conflict would come in, because I don't stand to gain from the operator's bottom line, nor does the commission.
Mr Martin: I suggest you do stand to gain. If the raceway continues to be successful and the pieces you add on as economic development officer in that area to that industry succeed and do well and you're able to find a way to make this happen and that happen and stretch a thing here, it is in your professional best interests to make sure that in fact happens. If it comes to a situation where you may have to make a decision that in some way impedes that because you found something somewhere that is not quite according to the rules, you may find yourself in a very interesting and difficult position.
Mr Annunziata: I think in that scenario you're right, if that were to occur. I just don't see how that scenario would ever come, because right now the Fort Erie Race Track is in the town of Fort Erie and I do work in the city of Port Colborne now. My marketing initiatives wouldn't affect the town of Fort Erie at all; my marketing is more in the city of Port Colborne. So the opportunity for conflict doesn't exist.
Mr Martin: Your comment earlier to my colleague from Sudbury was that you have just this tremendous interest and passion for the racing industry --
Mr Annunziata: That's right.
Mr Martin: -- to make sure that it succeeds at all cost.
Mr Annunziata: Personal interest, not at all costs.
Mr Martin: That's the sense you get from the way you speak about it. There's no problem there. The problem I have, though, is putting you, then, on the body that's going to regulate this industry and make judgements that sometimes may be very difficult. The other thing I would suggest is that the commission oversees all raceways in Ontario. Would you not again see the potential for some conflict as well in terms of Fort Erie is your raceway and you're competing with Woodbine and issues come up and you want to protect your particular piece of the action? Don't you see there as well some --
Mr Preston: That's the same question I asked. You can give the same answer.
Mr Martin: But it is, actually. It's a great question. It's a good question and I want to hear the answer again.
Mr Preston: Can we play Hansard back?
Mr Annunziata: I think my perspective from Fort Erie again is a perspective that I'm not coming in as a cheerleader for Fort Erie or as a proponent for Fort Erie. I think I bring a perspective in that I've been around the racing industry for a long time. The perspective could be of some value to the commission in that I recognize the economic impact of live racing in Ontario. That's what I do bring: a perspective for live racing.
Mr Martin: You yourself mentioned earlier the very intense competition that's on right now for the betting dollar. I remember when we were introducing casinos and the battle that went on between the racing industry and our government as we introduced this new entity into the Windsor area. There was tremendous personal interest by people like yourself, economic development officers who saw an attack on your particular piece of that action. You don't see a scenario, a situation at all in your role as commissioner where a decision has to come down that might impact negatively one of your competitors versus Fort Erie and you're saying you have no personal interest as economic development officer for a community in that area?
Mr Annunziata: As an economic development officer, obviously I'm concerned with jobs and the tax base. Those are my two objectives.
Mr Martin: But which supersedes the other?
Mr Annunziata: I don't think either has to supersede the other.
Mr Martin: Well, there will come a time --
Mr Annunziata: By preserving the integrity in the industry as a regulator on this commission, I think it will lead to the success of the industry, which will provide and enhance the jobs that already exist.
The Chair: I'm sorry; we've run out of time, Mr Martin. Were there any more questions on the government side?
Mr Bob Wood: We'll waive the balance of our time.
The Chair: Mr Annunziata, thank you for coming before the committee and being straightforward in your responses. We appreciate your attendance here.
Review of intended appointment, selected by third party: Nancy Slater, intended appointee as member, Child and Family Services Review Board.
The Chair: The next intended appointment is Nancy Slater. Welcome to the committee. The committee would welcome any opening comments you might have. It's not necessary, but you may if you wish.
Mrs Nancy Slater: Yes, I have. Mr Chairman, members of the standing committee, thank you for inviting me here to appear before you today. I hope you've all had a good summer so far.
I reside in the city of Gloucester, situated in the eastern part of the Ottawa-Carleton region. I am currently employed at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, where I have been for the last nine years. My involvement with the hospital, the autistic home and Parent Finders has afforded me the opportunity to deal with various areas of Comsoc, particularly with regard to clients under the age of 18.
In the past 10 years I have received five volunteer recognition awards from the city of Gloucester for service in the community. Actually, I believe I'm going to be receiving a sixth one this fall.
As one who has been heavily involved in politics at all levels, people have often sought my help and advice in dealing with different issues, particularly social service issues. While I may be partisan politically, I have always encouraged people to look at issues from all sides of the political spectrum.
I'm here before you because I applied to sit on the board. Although the recommendation may come from the government side, I know I can contribute in a non-partisan way to serve the best interests of the clients.
As a layperson without children of my own, I believe I can be objective in helping to formulate decisions that are both fair and reasonable while promoting the best interests of the child. I look forward to working with the Child and Family Services Board, the ministry and the agencies involved. I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have. Thank you.
Mr Preston: Ms Slater, I have read your résumé, and your dedication to serving the needs of children is unquestionable. I've been impressed by your 10 years of volunteer service with the Gloucester Agricultural Society, but I see an absence of letters after your name, and that may concern a lot of people. Mind you, it doesn't concern me. I run a home for boys who have been wayward. When London Psychiatric can't handle them, they send them to me. There are all kinds of letters behind the names up there; I don't have any letters behind my name. I believe you probably have received all the letters behind your name that are really absent, but you have them anyway because of your experience.
Could you share with us why you choose to work with children with special needs? It's a difficult area.
Mrs Slater: I cannot necessarily say I have picked or chosen the special-needs. A lot of things throughout my life have sort of fallen my way. If I don't like them, I leave, but in these particular cases I've enjoyed myself. With the special-needs children, particularly with the agricultural society, that was definitely bringing children back to being kids again, which is something we all need to remember at times. They can be kids and they should be allowed to enjoy themselves.
Regarding having letters after my name, I really don't think somebody with a master's degree makes them any better at caring for someone than someone without. Experience sometimes is a better teacher than a book.
Mr Ford: Good afternoon. I understand that while you worked for Ottawa Valley Autistic Homes you liaised with the Ministry of Community and Social Services. You also mention on your résumé that you helped to mediate problems between youths and respective schools. Dealing with troubled youth is what the Child and Family Services Review Board does. Tell us about your experiences mediating problems between youth and the schools.
Mrs Slater: Unfortunately, it was a good 10 years ago that I was with the home, and the home had dispersed into more of foster home type of facilities. What was happening is that children with autism -- I'm not sure how familiar you are with autism; I'm trying to think of the best way to describe it -- were just going to school. Something might come up that would totally destroy their day, you might say, and the school would call the home. Nine times out of 10, I was the one who was at the home; it was my job to be there every day. We would decide just what brought the problem on, the state of the child at that time, whether or not we needed someone there with proper medical type of training in that field immediately or if it was something that could wait till the worker was there with them after school. Some of the kids actually destroyed some classrooms, but there was often reason for, it in their eyes, and it was a way of working with them, the best way of taking care of the child at that moment.
Mr Ford: Have you worked with children suffering from apraxia?
Mrs Slater: No, I have not.
Mr Ford: I see that as a director of Parent Finders you dealt with adopted children and parents. You also assisted in drafting amendments to the Child and Family Services Act re adoption disclosure. How familiar are you with provincial legislation regarding children?
Mrs Slater: I'm up to date. Actually, I got this one from the children's aid society in Ottawa-Carleton. While I was with Parent Finders, it was with the Garber report, Bill 77. That was passed July 6, 1987, and that was dealing with items regarding the adoption disclosure registry and adoption disclosure. Parent Finders in the national capital region was always very politically active. I believe they still are. I helped contribute one way or another with the whole Garber report.
Mr Ford: You just answered my next question. Thank you very much.
Mr Bob Wood: We'll reserve the balance of our time.
Mr Bartolucci: Welcome, Nancy. Let me tell you right from the very beginning that Richard Patten thinks the world of you and said that you are going to be an excellent member of the review board, and I value his opinion highly. After reading your résumé and doing just a little bit of research, let me tell you, you are very much up to the challenge and the job, because it's so important. You know that.
I too have worked for many years -- 30 years -- with special-needs children. I'm not going to spend so much time talking about the services review board. As a member of that services review board, you're going to have to make some recommendations. You're going to have to be very opinionated. You know that and you're not afraid of that; that's what Richard tells me all the time.
But I have some serious concerns with regard to what's happening with children in the province. I don't want this to be a political, philosophical argument, because that's not what you're here to do. For the committee, and for me personally, what recommendations would you make to the government with regard to children's services? I'm not asking you to be critical and I'm not asking you to be overly supportive, but there is need for improvement in children's services. Can you give us some of your ideas regarding that?
Mrs Slater: I would rather not express my own personal opinions on this. With any type of service there's always room for improvement, regardless. I am familiar -- not line by line, mind you; I know some areas -- with the legislation, but I think that's something the board itself should work with and see which way the government is going. If they do ask for recommendations from the board, I would be happy at that time to -- there's always stuff I don't know about either and you don't know until you're right in the situation.
Mr Bartolucci: That's valid and that's fair. What's your understanding of the board's jurisdiction, though? You're going to be sitting on this board. What do you view your role to be?
Mrs Slater: My role, and I feel the whole board's role -- it sounds so rehearsed and that, but it's not -- is to promote the wellbeing of children. As I said earlier, children should be allowed to be kids. That's something all adults tend to forget, and unfortunately there's a lot of children out there these days who are not allowed to be.
Mr Bartolucci: I agree with you very much. Your description of what happens with autistic children sometimes in the school setting obviously can go to developmentally handicapped children, learning-disabled children, special-needs children and a variety of --
Mrs Slater: To me, they're all under special needs.
Mr Bartolucci: Yes, exactly.
Mrs Slater: They all are special and they all have needs.
Mr Bartolucci: Good. What improvements to special-needs children do you see are most necessary for your board to deal with?
Mrs Slater: For the board to deal with? Generally, I would say public awareness. There, again, that can go back to my days with the agricultural society. I would have to wait and see exactly how this board is formed. You don't know until you're there. I don't have initials after my name, remember.
Mr Bartolucci: Don't worry about those because your dedication speaks for itself, and that's all the initials in the world anybody ever needs. Do you see that there is a correlation, though, between ministries with regard to children's services -- the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ministry of Health etc?
Mrs Slater: Yes.
Mr Bartolucci: You think there is, eh? How best could you liaise between those ministries? If I was sitting in your position, and I guess I'll get a little bit political, I think there should be a minister responsible for children's services. Do you think that's such a crazy idea?
Mrs Slater: It definitely has pros and cons, doesn't it?
Mr Bartolucci: With sole responsibility. Do you think that would be a way of ensuring that those special-needs children, those children who so often fall through the cracks -- I know once you're a board member you're going to ensure that happens on a much more infrequent basis, but I worry about those special-needs children we've unknowingly forgotten because they fall through the cracks.
Mrs Slater: My understanding right now under community and social services -- they usually liaise between the different ministries to ensure that these different areas are taken care of. But that's certainly giving me something to think about; interesting.
Mr Bartolucci: One final question is, what do you see will be your most critical role when you become a board member?
Mrs Slater: I find that one difficult to answer. One thing Richard may not have told you is that I have a very difficult time tooting my own horn.
Mr Bartolucci: Well, he was tooting it for you; trust me.
Mrs Slater: You mean I should have him here now?
Mr Bartolucci: You don't need him here now.
Mrs Slater: It's very difficult for me to say. I haven't thought of it. I've tried to be a team player in anything that I have been involved with in the past and I'll have to learn more about it before I can answer you. I'm sorry.
Mr Bartolucci: Good luck with it.
Mrs Slater: Thank you.
Mr Martin: Thank you for coming today. I was just wondering if you are a member of the Progressive Conservative Party.
Mrs Slater: Yes, I am.
Mr Martin: Are you any relation to Jeff Slater?
Mrs Slater: Yes, one could say that.
Mr Martin: And he was --
Mrs Slater: I'm sorry, Mr Martin. I can't hear you very well.
Mr Martin: I'm sorry. I can't hear myself too well either today. I spent too much time at the beach with my kids over the last month. I think I've got sand and stuff in my ears. I'm not sure what it is.
Jeff, I believe, is your spouse, and he was the PC candidate in the last election in your area?
Mrs Slater: That's correct.
Mr Martin: Do you agree with the agenda of the government, both as it was spelled out in the Common Sense Revolution and as it's beginning to unfold in the last little over a year in Ontario as it pertains, given your appointment here, particularly to children and the care of children?
Mrs Slater: There hasn't been much on the agenda that has come out regarding this area from the government.
Mr Martin: Regarding children?
Mrs Slater: That's correct.
Mr Martin: Okay. I would suggest --
Mrs Slater: You're being a bit unfair, I think, Mr Martin. I mean, just because my husband was a candidate does not mean that I should be erasing the past 15 years of my life.
Mr Martin: All I'm asking is if you support the agenda of this government as it unfolds in the province, particularly as it affects --
Mrs Slater: What exactly does that have to do with this particular appointment?
Mr Martin: I think it's important. I mentioned here a couple of times today that we're in a position here where in a very short time we're to make a judgement on a person's suitability re an appointment to a particular board or commission that's going to affect the lives of some very vulnerable people, in this instance. I want to make sure, if I'm going to support that person --
Mrs Slater: Mr Martin, I can assure you that what I will be supporting is this, which has been put together over the past I don't know how many years by all parties. I believe in being very fair and just. We are dealing with children.
Mr Martin: What I need to know, though, is what else you're bringing to the table by way of your attitude and approach.
Mrs Slater: I have supported this government in the past, and I do not see any reason why I would not be supporting it in the future. But my main goal is the legislation.
Mr Martin: Okay. That's fine.
The cabinet of this government approved six new members to the Child and Family Services Review Board on July 17, and earlier this year they appointed six or seven other new members. This sweeping change was made possible by not reappointing any members who were previously appointed by the previous government. Do you think it would be right that should another government come in in a couple of years and you happened to be there and for very political --
Mrs Slater: That has happened in the past.
Mr Martin: It may happen, but should it happen, for very political reasons?
Mrs Slater: Not necessarily, but it has happened in the past, by all governments.
Mr Martin: Are you approving of that?
Mrs Slater: I am familiar with it.
Mr Martin: Are you approving of it?
Mrs Slater: I don't necessarily agree with it, but that is a fact of life.
Mr Martin: For political purposes, a whole board is wiped out and a whole new one is brought in. As a matter of fact, it's interesting, and this really doesn't have a whole lot to do with you but it certainly does with this committee; it's the context within which we operate here: "Tory Actions Illegal, Court Rules" in the appointment of members to the Ottawa-Carleton police services board in the middle of two-year terms of already sitting members of that board.
Mrs Slater: I'm fully aware of that.
Mr Martin: Okay. I just thought it was an interesting little piece of information.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): It's totally irrelevant.
Mr Martin: It's not totally irrelevant; it's actually very relevant. It's what is unfolding here around this table week after week as your government continues down the road of implementing the Common Sense Revolution, and I suggest to you that it's not in the best interests of families and children. I want to know if the people you're appointing to some of these boards that make decisions that affect very directly the lives and the livelihoods of children are people who really have the best interests of children at heart.
Mrs Slater: Mr Martin, I can assure you that the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa-Carleton -- this is their book; they knew I was coming down here for this board today -- had no problem with my having the legislation to help review. I believe I have some support from Mr Gill's office itself, the director of children's aid in Ottawa.
Mr Martin: Do you agree it was right for this government to take 21.6% of the income of the poorest of our families away from them and with the impact that has on their ability to feed their children?
Mrs Slater: I suggest you ask our government members.
Mr Martin: But do you agree with that? Do you support that approach?
Mrs Slater: I suggest you ask our government members.
Mr Martin: I need to know if in supporting your appointment to this --
Mrs Slater: I'm sorry, Mr Martin. I will not answer that. Mr Chair, I also do feel that this line of questioning has become rather inappropriate and has absolutely nothing to do with this particular appointment.
The Chair: Since you've directed the question to me directly, there is a long tradition in this committee of allowing members to ask very pointed questions, of all political parties, regardless of the party that's asking the questions.
Mrs Slater: I realize that, Mr Chair, but these questions have absolutely nothing to do with this particular appointment.
The Chair: To be fair, we're talking about child and family services and I would just encourage Mr Martin to stay on that tack of dealing with child and family services.
Mr Martin: I would suggest to you that it's going to make it really very difficult for me to support your appointment unless you're willing to share with me some of your attitude towards the care of children and some of what this government is doing that I suggest to you is very much anti families taking care of their children at home by way of the income that they receive and the cost of doing that because of some of the initiatives they've introduced. I want to know who we're appointing to this table that will decide on where we put some of these very vulnerable children once they end up out of their homes because their families can't take care of them any more. If you don't want to answer that, I guess that in itself speaks to me.
Mr Preston: With her background and her qualifications, just because she won't knock the government, you're going to vote against it?
The Chair: Let's let Mr Martin pursue his line of questioning, Mr Preston.
Mr Martin: If the intended appointee is not willing to answer or participate in this discussion any further, then I guess, Mr Chair, I'm finished.
The Chair: Are there any other comments or questions? We have a little extra time.
Interjection: No further questions.
Mr Bob Wood: We'll waive the balance of our time, Mr Chair.
The Chair: That concludes the review of Mrs Slater's appointment. Mrs Slater, thank you for coming before the committee and answering questions.
That concludes the review of appointments for the day, except there remains the question of concurrence.
Mr Bob Wood: I move concurrence in the intended appointment of Mr Annunziata.
The Chair: You've heard the motion from Mr Wood. Do you wish to wait until --
Mr Bob Wood: I'll reserve my comments.
Mr Martin: I'm not going to be supporting this appointment, not that I don't think the candidate is capable, talented, committed and a professional person in his life as the economic development officer for his community.
I guess there are two reasons. One, I just find it difficult to participate with this government in its wont to reward ex-candidates and campaign managers of candidates to positions of this sort. Even more importantly, though, I think he's going to find himself continually, for the various reasons that I outlined in my questioning, in conflict of interest. That would not be, in my mind, in the best interests of the racing industry as a whole, nor would it be in the best interests of the public out there, whom we have a responsibility through commissions such as the racing commission to protect. So I will not be supporting this appointment.
Mr Bartolucci: I will be supporting the appointment, and I will be because I honestly believe Mr Annunziata presented himself extremely well, very honestly, and I think he's bright and he's got a few good ideas that will enhance the commission and racing in general.
I only wish he would have said that he wanted to be a candidate in the next provincial election. I think it was there, it was pretty close, but I just wish he would have said it. But little sins are forgivable. I think he will be a very, very good appointment. I think he will also be a very honest appointment. He answered the question to my satisfaction when he said he's only interested in protecting the integrity of the industry. I don't think you can ask much more from an individual who sits on a commission. Integrity is all-important in the minds of the people of Ontario and I think he'll protect that, so I will be supporting him.
The Chair: Are there any other comments on Mr Wood's motion of concurrence? If not, are you ready for the question?
All those in favour of this appointment? Opposed? It's carried. Thank you for that.
The next one is the intended appointment of Mrs Nancy Slater to the Child and Family Services Review Board.
Mr Bob Wood: I move concurrence in the proposed appointment of Nancy Slater.
The Chair: Any comments on Mr Wood's motion?
Mr Martin: I won't be supporting this appointment either, for a couple of reasons, one similar to the last. I will not be a party to this government and its practice of -- we've seen it over and over again -- rewarding those who either ran as candidates or are related to candidates or managed campaigns in the last provincial election.
Even more importantly, I think notwithstanding Ms Slater's excellent background and résumé, her reticence to enter into a discussion with me about those issues that underpin her ability and her ability on our behalf to look out for the best interests of very vulnerable children and families in this province means I just cannot find it in my wisdom at this particular point in time to support that appointment.
Mr Preston: I don't believe there's anything in this lady's background to suggest that the underpinnings will be affected at all. If we look at southern Ontario and if we discount everybody who ran, helped or was related to a PC who won, there would be very few people for any committees.
The Chair: Any other comments?
Mr Bartolucci: I wasn't going to say anything, because I am supporting Nancy. I'm a little bit upset that she didn't answer the question, but her background tells me that she has a great concern for children and for family support services and that she will be a good member. But you know, I have to take exception with Mr Preston's comments.
Mr Preston: That's nothing new.
Mr Bartolucci: They're appointing people from Quebec because they can't find anybody in northern Ontario to sit on the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
We'll support Nancy's appointment, definitely.
The Chair: Any other comments on Mr Wood's motion? If not, are you ready for the question?
All those in favour of this appointment? All those opposed? The motion is carried. Thank you for that.
I would say to members of the committee that there are two somewhat administrative items to deal with, if you could stay for just a couple minutes.
One has to do with the next meeting, which was scheduled for September 4, which is a Wednesday again, I guess. At this point in time we have nothing before us in terms of candidate selections. However, that's likely to change because there's going to be at least one more cabinet meeting before then, maybe two, I believe. Therefore, may I suggest to members, if it's acceptable to you, that we have a phone conference to constitute the subcommittee meeting. Do you agree with that? Let me float a date for you, and if I could be self-serving in this regard, it fits in with my schedule, but we can alter that if it's not convenient. That would be August 28.
Mr Bob Wood: What day of the week is that?
The Chair: That's a Wednesday.
Mr Preston: That's pretty difficult to remember if members are going to be running across the top of the province.
The Chair: This is just the subcommittee, now.
Mr Preston: It's just the subcommittee? Do as you wish, then.
The Chair: A conference call on the subcommittee. But we can make it another day if that's a problem.
Mr Bob Wood: The only issue I raise is, is there enough time to get the witnesses there if the meeting's on the 4th?
The Chair: It would be one week.
Mr Bob Wood: Does anybody know: When's the cabinet meeting?
The Chair: Next week for sure.
Mr Bob Wood: Judy, do you know when the cabinet meetings are in August?
Interjection: August 14.
Mr Bob Wood: The 14th. That's the only cabinet meeting? So anytime after the 14th, I would suggest.
The Chair: I'm not sure what I'm hearing here. Is the 28th too late to ask people to come? Do we have a history of that?
Mr Bob Wood: It's a week.
The Chair: A bit more time? Okay.
Mr Bob Wood: This is for a subcommittee meeting.
The Chair: For a subcommittee meeting. We usually try to do it -- we've done it before; it's a conference call. But Tony, are you going to be around as Vice-Chair?
Mr Martin: Yes.
The Chair: So if I'm out of the province -- in fact, my holidays are in August this year.
Mr Martin: Yes, I'll be around. I'm not going anywhere.
The Chair: So do you want to do it the week before that, then? That's the 21st. It doesn't have to be a Wednesday either.
Mr Bob Wood: That's fine with me.
Mr Bartolucci: If we did it on the 20th, Bruce would be in Sudbury with the VLTs. It might be easier to come to my office, and you'd be in Sudbury.
The Chair: No, I won't be.
Mr Bartolucci: Oh, you won't be. Sorry.
The Chair: Okay, do you want to do it on August 20? The 20th is fine by me. Tony? That's a Tuesday.
Mr Martin: Yes, I'm working.
The Chair: Okay, so you're okay on the 20th and probably Bruce can --
Mr Bartolucci: Bruce will be in Sudbury, no problem.
The Chair: Bob, do you know what your schedule is?
Mr Bob Wood: Basically, I want to avoid Mondays and Fridays.
The Chair: Okay, so Tuesday, August 20, might be all right. Why don't we try to do that, then.
Mr Bob Wood: I think I'm in London, but that makes no difference.
The Chair: Fine. The only other item is, have members been given these expense sheets?
Mr Preston: I thought we didn't get those any more.
The Chair: This is what's been bothering me. There are expense sheets for members of committees because you are allowed to declare travel, accommodation and meal expenses associated with committee work. I put this in the friendly advice category. It is to your advantage to claim it on here rather than your general legislative expense claim. That's certainly what I intend to do.
Mr Preston: Apparently they said that if you put it on your general expense, you identified it and it went to the proper committee rather than coming off your budget.
The Chair: Well, you can try that if you like.
Mr Preston: No, I'll take one of the sheets.
The Chair: I'd take these and you send it directly to the finance branch, except that it's -- if you've got an air ticket, put it on, if you've got mileage put it on, if you've got meals, put it on, but make sure you have receipts for that, except mileage, but receipts for it.
The Chair: It's up to you. Nobody's telling you you have to do that. All right, that's it. Thank you all very much. See you later.
The committee adjourned at 1514.