"It was agreed that the subcommittee will meet to discuss the Progressive Conservative standing order 125 designation on the graduated driver's licence system on Wednesday, May 5, 1993, prior to the full committee meeting.
"It was agreed that, in accordance with the agreement made by the House leaders, consideration of Bill 96, An Act to establish the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board, will be concluded on May 10, 1993.
Hon David S. Cooke (Minister of Education and Training): What I think I'll do, with your approval, Mr Chair, is just take about two minutes. I do have a statement, but rather than reading it into the record, I think it would be more helpful to discuss OTAB with the members of the committee.
I would just like to say that I do appreciate the work the committee has done over the last period of time with the public hearings in dealing with a positive measure that I think has developed a fair amount of consensus in the province between the business community and labour.
I don't pretend, after 13 or 14 weeks in this ministry, to have mastered all aspects of the ministry yet, so I'm looking forward to this interaction as an opportunity to try to answer some of the questions -- we have representatives from the ministry as well -- and listen to the perspective of the opposition members as well as members of the government caucus.
I have talked to the opposition critics a couple of times in the last few weeks about OTAB and I know that the Conservative critic in particular has expressed disappointment that there hasn't been much in the way of amendments from the opposition parties accepted during the committee process.
Anybody who has dealt with other pieces of legislation that I've been minister for in the last couple of years would know that we have accepted a fair number of amendments from the opposition parties, and I usually like to have an explanation as to why we can't accept something, and try to do it if we can, rather than saying no to every request from the opposition.
But I think in this particular case, if you take a look at the process that the business community went through along with labour and government and the equity partners that are also on the board, there's been a very substantial compromise struck by both business and labour in order to achieve the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board legislation. It's not easy to start playing around with significant parts of the legislation, because then the consensus between business and labour would break down and that would result in the whole concept of OTAB going out the window. While I certainly appreciate and understand some of the frustration of the opposition critics, I hope you will also understand that the process we've gone through is an important one, and I think an important consensus has been achieved between business and labour to proceed with OTAB.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I have really fundamental concerns with this, really fundamental concerns. I think what this thing is designed to do is fundamental to our future. It's all part of lifelong learning. I think the things it sets out to do are essential. My problem is in the governance of it. I think we're making a fundamental mistake in turning this over to an independent agency.
I understand that it came from the Premier's Council -- my name was on that report -- I understand all of that, but I am really worried that in all the things we're trying to do to eliminate the barriers between our educational institutions we're setting up an amazingly complex one here. These 22 people are going to be independent. I've some experience with the Workers' Compensation Board, and it is independent from the minister: You cannot direct them in the day-to-day operations.
Also, as I read the OFL's comments on it, it's clear that it comes to that OTAB board with its own agenda. That's totally understandable. In fact, that's the way they see it working: that the success of OTAB and local boards depends on each of the parties around the table being clear about their own agendas so they can determine how they can work together.
What I see is the labour group figuring its agenda out, the business group figuring its agenda out, I guess the other six parties figuring their agenda out and coming to this thing with their agendas. Honest to gosh, I don't think the public's at that table. Part of the public's at that table, but we lose the public interest, so it's foreign to almost everything I think we should be trying to do around here. I completely understand why some of the business community like it, because they see this as real power sharing, I can understand why the labour community likes it, I can understand why some of the other groups like it, but I don't know where the public is on this one, I don't know where the public voice is on it.
My judgement is that it's got a budget; you can confirm this. The goal is that you integrate the federal and the provincial budgets. That's a $2-billion budget, I believe. Initially it isn't, but eventually it will be. It's huge. It has its own ability, I gather, to raise its own funds. These are almost questions, Minister.
I also will raise a separate question. I know that Fred Upshaw believes that the reason these things are being set up is to try to get the money and the people off the books. You might want to comment on that, but he has indicated that that's his concern about these agencies.
But I would like some comment on where the public voice is on this, that once this independent, arm's-length agency is set up, the minister loses control. When I say "control," I mean the public loses its say in it. When most of us in our constituency are hearing all sorts of comments about people who are trying to develop their skills, and "How can you help me?" I think this thing's going to be removed from us.
For the short period of time I was over at Management Board and looking at the whole concept of agencies -- this is a whole new class of agencies under the crown corporation, as opposed to Hydro or the Workers' Compensation Board, so if you take a look specifically at this schedule, schedule 4 agencies, staff are totally different from staff at workers' comp or Ontario Hydro. They are civil servants. The human resource policy and so forth are the government's human resource policy, not the human resource policy of the board. They're integrated.
I know OPSEU has concerns with schedule 4 agencies; I've heard them loud and clear many times. But I don't believe the concerns that they or others have expressed about the way that crown corporations like Ontario Hydro or workers' comp are are applicable to schedule 4 agencies.
In fact, I would argue that the accountability is stronger through the establishment of OTAB in a schedule 4 agency than it is under the current system, where money goes all over the place into local communities. There's very little accountability in terms of how that money is spent and the effectiveness and coordination of training money that goes into many of our communities across the province.
You know as well as I do that the overlap that currently exists is very substantial. I can only think of a few agencies back in my home constituency that provide things like literacy training, and there is no coordination between the various groups that provide it. I think this will really allow for some local planning as well as provincial planning.
There is provision, as you know, in the legislation for memorandums of understanding between OTAB and the ministry, and through directives that can be sent to the board of directors from government, just as there is under, I believe, the Hydro legislation. I'm not going to state that any government would want to be using directives on a regular basis. Any kind of directive to Ontario Hydro is a big deal, and any kind of directive to the OTAB board would be, I think, a political question for the government of the day to do. But there is provision in the legislation.
Ultimately, the accountability is with the Ministry of Education and Training, at least to the public. Unless I'm incorrect, OTAB would be reporting through the Minister of Education and Training, and whoever the minister of the day is would be held accountable, just as you were held accountable for workers' comp in the Legislature and to the public. But there are certainly provisions in this legislation for directives and MOUs to work with the OTAB board.
Also, if I recall, it's required that there be some linkage between provincial government policy and training policy through the OTAB board. So I think there is some additional accountability that doesn't exist now, where millions of dollars are being spent in communities and it's very difficult to measure the effectiveness of the money that's being spent in training across Ontario right now. I'm told that the actual budget for the dollars from the consolidated revenue fund being spent through OTAB would be about $400 million to $500 million. That's correct?
Mr Phillips: Just so you're clear on my concern, if you listen to a Minister of Labour answering a question in the Legislature on WCB, he essentially washes his hands of it because he says it's an independent agency. There is a memorandum of understanding between the Minister of Labour and WCB, just like there'll be a memorandum of understanding. I'm just saying to particularly the NDP caucus because I urge you to -- I mean, it's too late on this thing now; it's done. But I find it really unusual that the NDP would be prepared to turn over this much of the public responsibility to a 22-person board. If you listen carefully to a Minister of Labour's answers in the House on WCB --
Hon Mr Cooke: Yes, it's a schedule 4 agency, which is different. There's also a difference in that -- and I gather that your critic has also referred a few times to the ability of OTAB to raise revenues, which is not my understanding. The only revenues that this agency would be able to raise would be things like services that it provides, whether it's tests that are provided now; those types of services.
Mr Phillips: But the legislation, Minister, says that OTAB can set fees, and therefore it seems to me -- correct me if I'm wrong here -- that it can say to a sector, "We will work with you on training, but we'll want half the money on fees." It seems to me that's the goal, for it to set fees. It doesn't say "fees" in there?
Hon Mr Cooke: But perhaps a further explanation would help you out, because that's not what I understand is the purpose. Your critic had raised specifically the issue of a payroll tax, which would never be envisioned under this, for OTAB to be making those kinds of decisions.
Mr Landry: The fees referred to, like the minister referred to, are more administrative fees, like the apprenticeship branch now at the department of skills development can charge fees for the writing of examinations and so on. The key point, though, is that no fees can be charged outside of regulation, and what the act does is permit fees only by regulations, which gives the government a good deal of control, obviously, on any fees. So any fee would have to be acceptable to the government and the government would be accountable also for those decisions.
Mr Phillips: I understand it's done through regulation; I understand that. The goal of this, as I recall it, was to combine the federal numbers -- I understand the provincial numbers are $500 million, $600 million -- and that's where I get to the $2 billion they ultimately would -- how much federal money is spent currently in the province, and wasn't the original intent to coordinate the federal and provincial money in this?
Mr Landry: Yes, the intent is for better coordination. I don't think it means, though, that OTAB would be responsible for all of the $2 billion. That refers to the Canadian Labour Force Development Board agreement, the $2 billion that it spent in Ontario. The federal government will still maintain its presence in spending in Ontario.
I think the key event around that, though, also was the referendum in October, where there was some discussion about the federal government giving more training powers to provinces. But with the results of that referendum, I think the answer is quite clear. But no, it is not intended that OTAB would take over the federal spending. In fact, the federal government talks about using local boards and it will still have CECs in operation and so on. So no, what we're talking about is those provincial dollars that are not being spread over the various ministries, which is about $400 million to $500 million.
Mr Phillips: That is the fact today. But the whole reason for setting OTAB up was to try to coordinate all of this. Therefore, if it can be worked out with the federal government, wasn't it the intent that OTAB be the one coordinating body here in the province? I mean, the minister got up in the House and said that.
Mr Phillips: On the board of the 22 people, who speaks for other people? Who's there representing youth, for example? The people who are coming to this, according to the OFL document, come with their own agenda. They caucus it, bring their agenda there. Who's there speaking for the individuals of the province?
Hon Mr Cooke: I don't understand why you would believe that people who are there, who have been appointed, recommended by the business community and by labour and the equity groups and the education reps, would not be speaking for the people of the province. What's the option? The option would be to, what, have local boards that are elected at the local level?
Mr Phillips: I'm just assuming that the groups coming there believe their role is to bring their agenda to OTAB. I'm just going by what the OFL said. The OFL's agenda -- or business; if it's business's objective to bring the business agenda, I understand that, but I don't think the business agenda is -- it's the business agenda, but it leaves a large gap of the public agenda. If people are coming there as the representative of -- which I gather they're doing -- I think we've got 22 representatives of vested interest. Who's there for the public?
Hon Mr Cooke: I guess I see that the whole concept of labour market partners -- these are the major consumers of the system controlling the system, both at the provincial level and coordination at the local level. I just don't see that as a backwards step or some divestment of responsibility. I think it will really give us the opportunity to have local control and public control of the training agenda in the province. I guess it's just a complete different philosophical point of view on this.
It's going to take some time, just as it has with other boards that have been set up where labour and business have been partners. I think it's going to take some time, once it's established, to mature and have everybody get used to one another and how they can work cooperatively to move the training agenda forward in Ontario, but I really don't see everybody coming to the meetings and saying: "This is it. This is our agenda. This is how we're going to do it." Or the other option is to come to the meetings and work cooperatively to achieve consensus. I believe it will be the latter.
Hon Mr Cooke: That doesn't mean they can't go and caucus and talk to one another, whatever process they use, just as they do when they go and talk to one another and they're at a negotiating table and they come to the negotiating table and they find a consensus with their business partners. You're taking the point of view that people will come into the meeting, have a locked position and that nothing will ever be achieved at the board level.
Mr Phillips: I'm taking the point of view this isn't -- you keep telling about the training. It's the whole lifelong learning; it's the whole worker adjustment; it's the whole skill development. This isn't a sectoral training program; this is, in some respects, our future. This is, I guess, a bit of a fruitless discussion, because we have such a fundamental difference on it and it's a done deal. All I want to do is register my real, fundamental concerns, not based on hypothesis; based on what people say, how people view this thing. My prediction is that in two years from now, rather than getting on with what's fundamental to our economy and the people who are trying to find work in it, we'll have a series of negotiation sessions going nowhere.
Mr Landry: I'm not sure. Maybe in the early stages, obviously, models were looked at, but I think the decision was to recognize that these partners should take a real control over the system and allow them to get on with some reforms that everybody seemed to agree were necessary. There seemed to be a fair amount of consensus around that. To do that, the decision was that it should have some decision-making power and not just be advisory.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): I suppose that I was particularly vocal about the importance of the minister being here. We certainly listened to the former minister at the opening session of the public deliberations of this committee. I think he certainly informed us of a couple of intents, first of all that he would be listening and looking for ways to make the legislation more relevant or to improve the legislation so that we would have a body that could in fact get things done. Secondly, I know he spoke specifically to the issue of the need for a voting mechanism to resolve disputes and that he would listen carefully to any suggestions we have in this regard.
I have to inform the new minister that we took that intent seriously and spent a lot of time reviewing the materials that came before us, both in the committee hearings, asking our questions, and the written reports that he knows, from his experience around this place, often aren't read. But we did in fact look at probably over 100 possible amendments that we could have brought forward from our caucus and decided to bring forward very many fewer -- I can't remember, but probably as many as 20 or something, and between the parties I think as many as 40. We worked very hard to be responsible in that regard. It was with some degree of disappointment that we found that the government, at least to this date, was able to accept only two or three amendments.
In my view, given the intent and given the improvements that would have resulted from the suggestions the public brought before us, I don't think the whole process around OTAB has been particularly responsive and successful. I think the government probably was misguided in the first instance and, in spite of some positive suggestions from many of us, the members in the House, didn't heed our good advice. As the public hearings went on outside of this committee around the province I was critical at the time of the length of time that people had to present to those hearings, and I've been critical since. There were some changes made throughout the hearing process in different communities, but there wasn't a lot of, I should say, confidence in the whole process. I think that has hurt the end result of those hearings, and that's too bad, because that's the kind of thing that could have been easily fixed. But somebody was dug in. Whether the minister at the time couldn't deal with it or whether he agreed with it, I have no idea, but I can tell you that this whole concept should have been welcomed with open arms and enthusiasm. I think sometimes the process really causes the government to lose the confidence of the people it's supposed to serve.
I forgot about that, because I knew the minister wasn't directly involved, and perhaps he wasn't as well informed, but this one I can't forget about. There is no reason, in my view, to have public hearings that cost the public of Ontario some $53,000, at least to this point in time, reviewing public submissions after hours and hours of work and not seriously looking after or at least responding to, I think, some pretty good examples of where the legislation could be improved.
I'd just like to run through them and then give the minister a chance to respond. He and I have had some discussion about this, but I think it's important that he understand that it was with the interests of the public in mind that we put forward some changes.
With regard to the amendments, we tried to put them in some six different categories. I'm just going to let him know what we attempted to do and perhaps he could make some notes and respond and tell us why the government didn't take the advice of our constituents.
Given the Premier's position on the importance of the creation of jobs that would form the basis for wealth -- he certainly has made those statements many times in public speeches. I've been in his company when he's done it, and I've now been, I think positively, in a very positive way on behalf of the government, invited to sit on a subcommittee of the Premier's Council, which I'm appreciative of, where we are discussing education and the importance of job creation as a basis of wealth.
All we simply wanted to do in one of the amendments that we put forward, and I think the Liberals put many of the same amendments forward, was to recognize that in order to prosper in the future, Ontario will need a competitive Ontario workforce that will form the basis for wealth and job creation. I want you to know that when the government didn't accept this amendment, I don't think there were any good reasons not to do it and I would ask that the minister look at that.
Hon Mr Cooke: As I understand it, one of the difficulties, even in the purpose of the bill, was that some people on the business side saw that there was too much emphasis on some of the social goals of this whole process, and the board and some people on the labour side continued to believe that there is too much emphasis on competitiveness and the economy. So even with something as specific as the purpose, it was difficult to go into the process here and look at amendments that would, in some people's views, fundamentally change the purpose and the emphasis of OTAB.
I understand your frustration about amendments. For many years when I was a member in opposition, I didn't have one amendment to any piece of legislation passed, quite frankly, until the 1985-87 period, so I understand your frustration, but in this particular bill it's extremely difficult to upset what is a balance and an arrangement through a process that business and labour have agreed to.
I find certain committee processes in this place in the last five years particularly frustrating, and I would never want to be part of a government that condones it, and I simply wouldn't be part of a government that condones it. I've got too many important things to do.
I do have confidence that this government is listening. Certainly, I have had some reason to believe that they are, and in this committee I personally think, Mr Minister, that you're part of a process that you would not have approved in the beginning. I think once negotiations go on with however government works -- I don't know; I haven't had the privilege of being there, but however government works, whatever you have to do to get people to the table, I respect that. But once it gets into this arena, this is a political arena and I feel strongly that, no matter what, this is where the public speak.
The irony of this one piece, these few words that I'm talking about, is that these words have been stated by the Premier long before we ever got into OTAB discussions, and he is respected for that. He recognizes it.
I think there are times when governments have to overrule interest groups, and one of the great concerns I've got in this democracy that we're all so proud to be part of, about governments, is that they are overruled by interest groups. I think you have every right, as a minister in your government, to go back to these interest groups and say: "Tough. You win a few, you lose a few. We believe in this."
This is not a major issue. These are the kinds of things that were brought forward by the public, and this is an opportunity, I think, for a government to go back and say, "Tough." I can't imagine either of the groups you've talked about, labour or business, not agreeing with this particular amendment and I don't think it was carefully considered. I have a feeling that, clause by clause, this was not carefully considered, and anybody who says to people who are negotiating without the public being represented in any government process, which is not what your government stood for in the last election, is wrong, and therefore I think this has to be looked at.
I would not be raising these issues today if I thought I had a clear reason for the government supporting the exclusion of this particular amendment. I didn't get it -- and the response, and with due respect to the parliamentary assistant, I think he did a good job in responding -- and there are many issues I won't bring forward because I understand why the government said no. But there are some that I am bringing forward and I think they ought to be taken back, because I think it makes the whole legislation better.
I don't really want to dwell on this. I would have dwelt on the one my colleague raised with regard to the financial implications and what not, but he has done it very well so I'm trying to move into other areas here.
I understand the process. I understand the deals that are made. I hope I never have to be part of that, or at least I hope, if I am part of it in some small way, to get people to a table, which I find so disgusting, that they can't come to the table when the government invites them to be there in good faith. If we're stuck with that kind of attitude in Ontario, you and I both know we've got problems, as do my colleagues. But anyway, I'm just going to move forward. I understand that. I hope you'll reconsider it.
With regard to a further -- it fits into the purpose clause. I guess it could be considered section 4 of the bill. I just thought you'd like to hear this, because I've seen you frustrated before -- the objects part of the bill -- when you sat on the other side.
On the objects part, we did recommend that there be an amendment based on two or three different groups that reported -- trainers and boards of trade and what not. We didn't get a lot of changes from the unions. With due respect, Mr Minister, we didn't get a lot of changes from the unions. They basically talked about what they didn't want to see. If they had brought forward changes I could be supporting or thought they would be improving the legislation -- I prefer my latter choice of words -- I would be happy to bring them forward too if we thought they were going to improve the legislation. But we didn't get a lot of input where I could bring forth motions, because that was one of the mandates we took a look at in looking through the documentation. We didn't get a lot of good ideas. We got reasons why not to do things, and I'm trying to be fair.
But anyway, in the objects it was recommended here that we add to the intent of participating "in the development and promotion of common standards." We wanted to put "throughout Canada." This was a recommendation that was brought to us by one of the boards of trade; I believe it was Mississauga; I'm not sure. We thought, in the interests of what we're talking about in this country right now and the government itself saying that it has to take down trade barriers, and the frustration around this government in dealing with the federal government around the barriers that exist, that was a helpful suggestion.
Again, you're not going to persuade me otherwise, that this would be detrimental to the legislation. I understand that this training is in fact -- we're the first province to enter into this kind of agreement with the federal government and come up with a training structure that will work, but I don't see the harm in putting that in. It was just one small thing where people came forward, gave us a good idea and we jumped on it.
Hon Mr Cooke: This is helpful. You're raising a couple of points. My understanding is that the wording that was suggested -- it's not the same wording, but the intent of the wording that you were suggesting, and the Mississauga Board of Trade, is covered by item 6, subsection (6), I guess, under objects, and that's why it is worded the way it is.
Mrs Cunningham: Well, we just wanted to clarify it and say "throughout Canada," that was all. I agree with you, but I just thought it was giving strength to the legislation and letting the other provinces know how we felt. It doesn't say "throughout Canada." It's a general statement. We actually thought you did mean that it would go beyond Ontario, and that's great, because I think these skills that we're teaching our young people ought to be portable from province to province, and that's all we wanted to do, to put the words "throughout Canada."
We thought it was a good suggestion. I don't see where it specifies that. If that's the intent, I wouldn't be worried about putting it in, that's all, as a government. I think you agree with us in that regard, unless I'm totally missing something. I don't want to take up the whole committee time. I've been accused of that from time to time.
I'd like to speak about the makeup too. We're now into section 9. Again, between both opposition parties I think there were many solutions presented, throughout various amendments, to the government with regard to the makeup of the board. You can understand how frustrating it has been for us to go out and talk to the public with regard to the appointment of the labour representatives, saying that seven of the eight labour seats will in fact be given to the Ontario Federation of Labour. It speaks for itself. I'm sure it's part of the negotiations.
Hon Mr Cooke: On that, because I've heard questions in the House, I don't really know what the alternative would be. Even some of the people whom I've met in the business community with respect to OTAB accept the fact that if you're going to have labour market partners who are going to be on the board, then one of the labour market partners is organized labour, and the Ontario Federation of Labour is the representative of organized labour. Probably it's just my own failing, but I've never understood how you can get -- who would appoint unorganized workers and whom would they represent?
I think your point was that people aren't arguing about the Ontario Federation of Labour being given seven of the eight seats and the building trades council being given just one seat. I think you have to think about where we want labour to be involved. I'm only speaking from what I heard in the meetings, because I haven't spent a lot of time on it, but I think to be specific, one of the groups that did come before us was the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario. They, in their presentation, told us that in terms of the absolute numbers involving apprenticeship training, the construction industry is the largest single group, representing somewhere in the neighbourhood of 48% of all apprentices. That compared to 8% in service-related apprenticeships, 28% in motive power apprenticeships and 17% in industrial-related apprenticeships.
If we're looking at training programs and you pose a question to me, I can only come back to you and say that the Ontario Federation of Labour, within that, the building trades council itself said that, "Maybe you should give us more seats," and they took the time to come before the committee and told us that. They made a very good point and they said that the current OTAB makeup does not reflect the important contribution that construction makes to the training of its workforce. So even within that group, they're saying if it is organized labour, maybe the construction workers should have more say, the reason being that they're the ones who are heavily involved in training around the province today.
Hon Mr Cooke: I think it is important to remember that, first of all, the Ontario Federation of Labour did respond to the concerns of the building trades and one of the seven is, in fact, through the OFL, going to be an additional person from that sector of the labour movement.
Apprenticeship training is incredibly important to the province, but it is only one area of training in the province as well. So there has to be a balance here. You may not agree with the balance that's been struck, but none the less, there is a balance.
Mrs Cunningham: I'm going to let my colleague speak to this from his point of view, but I have to tell you that we listened to a number of groups that came before the committee that gave us ideas on how the unorganized workforce could be chosen. So there were examples there. We heard, within labour itself, that it wasn't happy with the number of seats that were given, in a way. You asked me, so I'm telling you.
Within the business sector itself, I don't know how it's going to chose its representatives. I would be curious to know, but you should also know that we said that both small and large businesses should be represented. So we take the same approach for labour and business.
In the Muskoka region that I represent, we have a situation where, when it comes to health care, when it comes to education, whether we're dealing with MNR, MOE or whoever, we are always lumped in with Parry Sound. We have a natural bond between those two regions, and with OTAB, we hear we're going to be lumped in with Simcoe county. I'm just wondering how written in stone these regions are or if there is any flexibility or opportunity to change some of this.
Hon Mr Cooke: At this point, we still are listening and final decisions on the boundaries haven't been decided. The federal government obviously has some involvement in this and we want the OTAB board to be set up so that OTAB board will obviously be significantly involved. So there still is an opportunity for people to make their case about the boundaries. Final decisions haven't been made yet.
Ms Sharon Murdock (Sudbury): Actually, I only sat on this committee for a week because I was sitting on another committee, so I unfortunately didn't have the opportunity of sitting through the whole process. I wish I had, because the week that I was here was extremely interesting.
The sections on LTABs in the legislation are not defined, and I understand that regulations are being formulated. I'm wondering how far along you are on the regulations and when we can expect to see them. When would the LTABs be set up? I know my community is waiting anxiously for this and it has been organizing in terms of the composition for the local training and adjustment board. I'd like some dates, if possible.
Hon Mr Cooke: I'm going to pass it over, but other than to say that, again, the OTAB board has to be set up so that its deliberations and advice can be sought and it can be involved in defining what the roles and responsibilities for the local boards are going to be. But in terms of what stage everything's at --
Mr Landry: We're obviously, with the federal government, looking at the results of the consultation that took place. We realize there are some frustrations in communities wanting to get on with it, but until the board of OTAB is in place, I would hesitate to give specific dates as to when local boards will be set up.
I think it would also vary from community to community, but one of the things that we'll be asking the board to put at the top of its agenda is getting around to local boards and finalizing that process, because we understand that the length of time has been frustrating.
The alternative would have been for the government to make those decisions on its own, and this whole idea was for governments not to make those decisions on their own. So we need the board, to finally answer your question.
Mr Landry: No, there are four partners in this process: the federal government, the Canadian Labour Force Development Board, Ontario, obviously, but the fourth partner is OTAB. It was our judgement that rather than proceeding without that partner, it would be better to wait for that partner to be in place before making final decisions around composition. We do know, however, that we don't want a cookie-cutter approach, so you'll see boards looking differently throughout the province, but we have some expectations around it, and in fact the bill speaks to local boards reflecting local diversity and so on. So Ontario will have something to say; we just didn't want to finalize things before the board, which we think is fair.
Ms Beall: Perhaps I can help with the explanation of section 15. The conflict-of-interest provisions set out in the legislation adopt the conflict-of-interest provisions of section 71 of the Corporations Act; that is, that part of the Corporations Act dealing with non-share capital corporations.
Basically, that provision says that if a member of a board has a conflict of interest with respect to a contract that the board is deliberating or thinking of entering into, the person must declare that conflict to the members of the board, but you'll notice that there are also provisions in section 15 to say that the director shall pass bylaws dealing with conflict of interest, which may impose restrictions on directors' activities, because the provisions of section 71 of the Corporations Act may not be sufficient to cover all the different types of conflict-of-interest situations the directors may find themselves in, so there will be provisions for them enacting bylaws to deal with the rest of them.
Ms Murdock: The reason I ask is because the week that I sat here, one of the presenter's concerns was that the board, in I think it's subsection (2) of 15, would be able to put restrictions or could conceivably put restrictions on -- if you were in a training consultative business, for instance, that you could conceivably be precluded from being on an LTAB or on the OTAB. I was wondering if any consideration had been given to that aspect, of such restrictions that you couldn't belong to the business for which you were going to be setting up -- you know what I mean?
Mr Landry: I think it's a fair question, because a number of people who obviously have an interest in training will want to be on the board. We don't state that they can't be, but I think they have to be careful about declaring a conflict of interest, which is more of a legal question than a policy one. So long as the person was clear about their conflicts and would refrain from voting and so on -- it's all those things that would kick into place, but they wouldn't automatically be precluded from being on the board. In fact, you will likely see at least one private trainer on OTAB, because they do have something to say on these issues.
Mr Landry: We don't want, however, OTAB itself, the board, to be making specific funding allocation decisions, which would be really much more areas of conflict for someone running a business who's receiving funds. This is to be a policy board, to make general policies and strategic decisions for the agency. But that's what conflict of interest is about: If you are in conflict, you must declare it.
Mr Kimble Sutherland (Oxford): My question is one that actually I have raised with Peter before, and I want to raise it again because the concerned constituents were in to see me again. That revolves around the issue of the Christian brethren who made a presentation here and who, because of religious beliefs, cannot join an association, whether that be a union or a business association or what have you. They can't join either.
They were in to see me again because one of their sons had tried to get into a specific, very specialized-type program and he couldn't get in because they told him, "You have to be a member of the union to get in." I explained to him that I thought what occurred was probably there was a specific training program done in conjunction with the union that it may have developed, and that may have been offered, I think it was at one of the colleges, and offered specifically as a specific training area then again.
But they wanted to be assured, and I'd like some assurance then again, to clarify that you don't have to be a member of an association or a union to qualify for training under the provisions of what is being set up under OTAB.
Mr Landry: No, you're quite right, Mr Sutherland; you don't have to be a member of a union to participate in the programs of OTAB. I don't know the specific case you're referring to regarding someone wanting to join, of course, but there are a number of programs out there, training programs, sponsored by unions, sponsored by unorganized employers, that only certain people can go because they happen to work for them. But generally speaking, programs are open to all. The bill speaks about the public good and training of all workers. We've thought about these issues.
Also, that would be a very significant policy change for OTAB to make that would require, quite frankly, the support of business and equity group members. I'd be very surprised if either of those groups would support such a motion, and quite frankly the government would have to accept it, and, again, I can't see that happening.
In fact, I think if you looked at the number of people taking training programs slated to go to OTAB, most of them aren't unionized. I think what you're dealing with is a very specific instance. Because I don't know the specifics, I don't want to comment too far, but it is fair for employers to set up training programs for their employees.
Mr Sutherland: Sure. I wasn't given all the specifics either. But there are specific ones that unions have initiated that are offered at community colleges but on the whole they're still open and eligible to anybody. Okay. Thank you.
The Chair: I think the minister has a commitment at 5 o'clock and we've got approximately half an hour or so. If it's agreeable to the committee, we can break that up into 10-minute blocks per party, if it's necessary. Agreed? Agreed. Mr Turnbull.
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): Minister, having sat through only a portion of the hearings, I have to say there's no doubt that it's a very difficult task in this business of the composition of the board, because if you had taken the advice of the various deputants, you'd have a board of, I don't know, 150 people -- obviously impossible, and I know there's an importance in keeping the board down at reasonable levels.
But coming back to your response to Mrs Cunningham's question about the fact that seven out of the eight labour seats were reserved for the Ontario Federation of Labour, you suggested that you didn't know how you could obtain people from the non-unionized sector --
Mr Turnbull: -- and who they would represent. But it appears to me that, you know, there are opportunities. I mean, for example, the things that come to mind are the Christian labour union, which I know the OFL does not recognize as a union.
Mr Turnbull: Well, okay, and the CITCs could potentially put forward a list of names representing the engines of the new economy as opposed to the old economy, because I think it's probably fair to say that a disproportionate amount of organized labour works in the old economy, whereas you look at industries like pharmaceuticals and some of the medical industries that are springing up, which are typically not organized, and we need to recognize those people and give them a voice.
I notice, for example, that you didn't have undue difficulty when you wanted to have a youth on your education panel, that you went out and got an outstanding 17-year-old. So I don't think the problem is unsurmountable, and of course that relates back to Mr Phillips' question where he was asking, what about youth being represented? You apparently felt it necessary to have youth represented on this royal commission.
Hon Mr Cooke: Nobody is saying on the royal commission that the young person who's on the royal commission can possibly represent all of the youth of the province. So if you had a worker who was either appointed by -- you suggested the CITCs or Christian labour, or Dianne had suggested the chambers of commerce. Then I would suggest that I don't know how you'd have groups that are dominated by business appointing workers to represent workers.
Hon Mr Cooke: See, I guess this comes down to, again, a basic philosophical difference. I don't see the Ontario Federation of Labour as only representing organized workers in the province. I see the OFL representatives and the building trades people who are on the board as representing workers in Ontario. The only legitimate group of people to appoint representatives of workers are people who have gone through a democratic process to elect their leaders, and that's how I see the trade union movement. You and I will never agree on this.
Mr Turnbull: But what I'm saying is, can you not accept that technicians' associations, non-unionized, can represent industries, and typically industries that are on the leading edge of where we're going -- not the auto industry, not the mining industry, which are in decline, but rather those industries which will be the future of Ontario, hopefully.
Hon Mr Cooke: Again, I wouldn't believe that a staff association or an association of professionals would have the same legitimacy in representing workers that an organized trade union, through the democratic process it goes through, has in terms of representing the workers in the province.
Mr Turnbull: -- trade union leaders are often elected without secret ballots, so let's not get into a great diatribe about democracy. I think that trade associations are quite as democratic as anything that goes on in unions.
Hon Mr Cooke: Not only do I not agree with the philosophy behind what you're suggesting, but I also don't agree that the OFL can't -- your basic, fundamental argument is that it can't represent anybody else other than the unions, the organized labour force in the province. I just fundamentally disagree with that.
Hon Mr Cooke: Yes, but the other thing is that if you want to set up an organization like OTAB, just as the Workers' Compensation Board and other boards that even your governments in the past were associated with -- they recognized that the legitimate representatives of workers in the province were the OFL.
Bob Elgie, I would argue, even Bill Davis and those folks, when they were looking at boards of directors where there were going to be labour representatives, went to the Ontario Federation of Labour because it is recognized as the legitimate representative of workers in this province. The philosophy that you're now talking about would set us back decades.
Mr Turnbull: Excuse me, Minister, that is just simply misleading. The suggestion that the industries that are coming up today, which weren't particularly prevalent at the time that the Workers' Compensation Board was set up by a Conservative government -- to suggest that there isn't legitimacy in those industries that are going to lead our economy through the next century is somewhat ludicrous. But I'll turn it over to my colleague.
Mrs Cunningham: I'll jump in on the issue of joint labour-management organizations and refer you to the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, which is presently in deadlock, unless it's solved its problems and my understanding is it hasn't, and say that this issue was raised during the hearings here. There were a couple of suggestions with regard to the need for a voting mechanism to resolve disputes. The former minister said that he would seriously look at that. Obviously, the amendments were defeated, and I'm just wondering if you've had time to think about it.
Hon Mr Cooke: I have talked about it very briefly. There is, as I understand it, some work that needs to be done by OTAB itself. I must say, and I say this now -- I guess I shouldn't say anything just as an individual -- looking at the process in terms of how decisions will be made, all this had to be done in a way that both sides could agree on when the bill was being put together.
Hopefully, a lot of the items that come to OTAB will be dealt with by consensus. But there certainly will be a challenge to the people who are on the board to see that decisions can actually be made. People are going to have to go into this with a lot of goodwill and commitment to the purpose of this whole process. But in terms of a dispute-solving mechanism, maybe Peter can just expand a bit about the process that will be used to try to find one.
Mr Landry: The proposal is that we will have a double majority plus two other groups. It's to be a majority of business, a majority of labour, plus two other groups, but we've looked at it at as being almost a last resort. The former minister was quite clear when this was designed that he wanted consensus to come first and then some kind of mediation process that the board should really design, not us. But if it comes to it, then we go to this voting mechanism of double majority plus two other groups.
Just one more question, Minister: I thought that the point that was made with regard to youth representation on the board that was requested was a fair one, especially in light of your intent with regard to the royal commission on education.
Furthermore, I think you should also know that in looking at precedents for legislation such as this that runs these training institutions around the world, your government brought forward the German, Netherlands and United Kingdom models, which we appreciated. You should know those are all tripartite bodies. Government has one of the roles, as well as the labour community and the business community. There's lots of precedent for making things work that I think has been ignored.
In closing, I'm just going to say that we still have an opportunity after you leave today to look at some of the other amendments, and one of them does have to do with a review process in two years to evaluate the implementation and the administration of the act. I hope that one will be seriously considered, because two years from now I would expect anyway that we'll have an opportunity to do that, whether it's in the act or not. But I think that sends out the right kind of signal.
I'm happy that you did come here today, from our point of view, and listen to at least some of the concerns we have. But I'm going to reiterate that I don't think that the process in this committee worked and I would hope that governments of the future will have learned from governments of the past, and that is that there's only so much you can negotiate behind closed doors and still get the confidence of the public.
Unfortunately, I have to say that I don't think this whole agency does have the confidence of the public at this point in time, and I think it's partly due to the whole political process. I'm sorry that I have to say that, but I'll be working anyway to see what I can do to be of some support. There's no doubt in my mind but we could have done a better job.
Mr Waters: Yes. There was one part that I was curious about, which was the apprenticeships. I understand it comes in under section 19 in my side talks here with the parliamentary assistant. My concern, as a person who came out of industry, is that I've always felt that in this province we haven't had enough licensed trades, as in there aren't enough of them licensed, and therefore apprenticeships, for those trades. I would wonder whether there's any intention under OTAB to indeed expand the number of licensed trades in the province and create either apprenticeships or skills under OTAB to obtain those licences.
Mr Landry: Yes, I think one of the key demands of OTAB will be to help reform the apprenticeship system. I think there are a number of issues, including numbers of trades, but also who's allowed to participate in trades, the interjurisdictional red seal program and so on, but that will be a key agenda item for OTAB, to expand the system and make it better.
In fact the model of OTAB calls for something called an apprenticeship reform council. Currently, there is no place, no forum, for various tradespeople and their employers to get together to talk about how you expand the system, how you make it better. The OTAB model calls for a forum, an apprenticeship reform council, where employers, employees and others can get together around that issue.
Formerly, quite frankly, those decisions were made by people like me. I happen to have been the director of apprenticeship for a while, and it would expand at the pace that I would demand it to expand in a sense, and this is going to provide a real forum for reform.
OTAB, and the minister referred to it, will be an agency of the Ministry of Education and Training, and obviously the links between workplace programs like apprenticeship and the education side of the house, if you will, are very important. I think you'll see more and more links as school boards start finding and seeking ways of keeping that section of the population in school longer and interested in trades.
Mr Waters: I guess I have a couple of concerns that, as I've said, coming from industry, I've seen in the past, and one of them is grandfathering. As you do expand licensed trades, grandfathering traditionally has just been, "I've done this trade for so many years," and somebody signs a document and you are, all of a sudden, a licensed whatever. I was wondering, do you foresee in OTAB dealing with that problem, because not everyone then does come up to a certain standard?
Mr Landry: We see OTAB dealing with that issue, and I'm not going to comment on what my views are on it, because the whole idea is to have OTAB to pick up this agenda around -- maybe it's the grandfather issue that you're referring to, or there are other issues of people who want to become tradespeople and have experience, and how do they gain entry into apprenticeships? But these are again the questions that we want the board to be making decisions on, not people like me.
Mr Waters: I know it has been an issue with labour for some time where, because of collective agreements and because of the way management wants to interpret some things and deal with them, trying to get apprenticeships in. It's been very difficult at times. Even now when we have a large percentage of our workforce sitting at home because of the circumstances, there are still people probably coming into this country as skilled trades, because we do have a difficulty historically in training people. I would hope that OTAB would --
Hon Mr Cooke: Whatever the legislation says. It wouldn't be a selection of somebody they didn't nominate, but there certainly wouldn't be a blanket accepting of their eight names if they didn't fulfil --
Mr Landry: The act would give the minister, if necessary, the ability to select other people simply for the board to be able to run. If a group choose not to put someone forward, we wouldn't want the board not to be able to operate as a board, so in those kind of circumstances the minister could.
But what will happen is that the reference groups that are referred to in the act would be, yes, the source of nominees under usual circumstances, and that's the way we have received the nominees to date. We have not chosen anybody. We have responded to the nominees given to us by the steering committees.
Mr Phillips: That's the clear understanding. So they will nominate the people. My understanding is that the groups feel the nominees are accountable to the group that nominated them. The OFL says, "Labour representatives on the board shall be accountable to the organizations that appointed them." Is that the intent?
Mr Landry: There is in fact almost dual accountability. The primary accountability is to the people of Ontario and the government, but they do have to represent the views, obviously, of business or anybody else who's there. Otherwise there's no point of them being on the board. But their primary accountability is to OTAB, to the agency, not only to its reference groups.
Mr Landry: I suppose it depends on what you mean by "accountable." The people who have the power to remove a board member are cabinet. If that's what accountability is, then the people are accountable to the government. I think what they're using is a softer term for accountability, that they should be representing the views of their respective groups. We've tried to cover that in the act under section 14, which says, "Each director shall act in the public interest while taking into account the needs and perspectives of the group he or she represents." I guess it may come down to the quotes that you're using to define accountability.
Mr Landry: I can't give you a specific percentage, but most of the money will come from the province. There are some programs that receive some federal funding. For example, the apprenticeship in-school funding is cost-shared. That would obviously be federal dollars, but most of it would be provincial dollars. There is no other source of money other than those fees that we discussed earlier, those administrative fees. The bulk of it is provincial, some federal that flows through provincial programs and some minor fees.
Mr Landry: We have started to put together the government's expectation around the memorandum of understanding. We have not begun discussions with the board because it obviously is not in place yet. Right now we're at the background stage, putting together what we think should be in it from a government's perspective, but it's very early.
Mr Landry: There are some Management Board requirements for the memorandum of understanding, and we have gathered other memoranda of understanding from other agencies to try to anticipate any issues we may have.
Mr Landry: I don't think we looked at it quite that way. We just looked at items covered without looking towards a specific model. We'll start from scratch based on what Management Board is going to require of us. We're just using them as samples rather than models.
Mr Phillips: I understand that. That's fairly important to me, to see the final memorandum of understanding, because if it's anything like other ones I've seen, as it defines it, it's an independent arms's-length board with ability to make its own decisions. I think that's what the agency's supposed to do, isn't it?
Hon Mr Cooke: I think there's some expectation of the people who are on the -- the groups, the businesses, certainly when they talked to me they wanted to make sure that there was an understanding that the board was an independent board.
The Chair: Okay. If we can come to order. When the committee finished for the day on February 25, 1993, the committee was considering Mrs Cunningham's amendment to section 20 of the bill. Mrs Cunningham.
Mrs Cunningham: I move that section 21 of the bill be amended by striking out "may" in the first line and substituting "shall." At this point, I'd like to hear why the government wouldn't support this.
Mr Gary Wilson: That's right. If I may, then, I will say, without any attempt to influence the argument, that the reason "may" is there is that it's to set up the possibility that when you put "shall" in, you are requiring someone to do something, and in this case there is no one to carry out that duty.
The fact is, the conditions you're trying to set out here will be noted in the regulations. That will set out the establishment, the composition and the funding of the reference groups. That will occur in the regulations. But to put "shall" in there, you're requiring an unnamed person or agency to do something, and as they are unnamed, it is virtually impossible to enforce.
Mrs Cunningham: I think that argument was a pretty good one for my last substitution of "may" over "shall," but I don't think it's very good this time, because in this clause we refer to the groups that will have the responsibility for striking these reference committees in subsection 9(2) and section 10. Subsection 9(2) talks about the board of directors, who in fact shall have the responsibility, in my view, of appointing these reference committees. Section 10 I think may pose a problem, if that's what you're referring to, because you didn't take my good advice on that one, and that's the aboriginal peoples. Maybe you've got a point on that one.
Maybe you'd like to explain the difference in your argument, because I think that 9(2) is referred to, so therefore we do in fact have somebody to execute the establishment of these reference committees. In section 10, I'm not sure; you could be correct. Maybe you are, because there is "an additional director shall" be selected in consultation. Isn't that a "shall," section 10, really? You're telling me that there's no one to oversee this, and I'm saying the clause itself says who "shall" oversee it.
Ms Beall: Just to explain a bit further about the reference to the term "by the groups named in subsection 9(2)," "the groups" doesn't mean the 22 directors. "The groups" refer to the group business, the group labour, the group educator-trainers etc. So yes, you've identified that of these people out there in the populace, some of them are going to be labour people, meaning the workers, people who are in business, educator-trainers, but you still don't have an identifiable individual, because the term "business" is not a legal term meaning that that is a particular individual or a particular corporate entity.
So although you can identify a characteristic of the people, you can't actually identify the individual people to whom this applies. It's a very generic term, so unfortunately it doesn't, at law, get any further than just saying "anyone."
I hope that may assist. To go back, the word "groups" in subsection 20(1) refers to the groups of educator-trainers, francophones, persons with disabilities. It doesn't refer to the 22 directors, so again it's still not an identifiable person to whom the duty attaches.
Ms Beall: The same thing also goes for section 10, because "aboriginal people" is a description of a group of people, but there's no way of saying, "Do you mean absolutely every person within that group therefore has the duty?" There's no identifiable person to whom the duty precisely attaches.
Mr Gary Wilson: As you know, the part of the bill that refers to the regulations would be included when we pass the legislation. I'm referring to 30(1)(i) and (j). In other words, 20 refers to the reference groups, and then the part on regulations shows how it will be carried out, as I said, with the establishment, composition and funding of the reference groups.
Mrs Cunningham: You feel that both these parts are necessary in the legislation? Why do we have 20(1) in there at all then? Why is it necessary, given the position you've just taken with regard to 30(1)(i)? Why do we need 20(1) if you've already got it -- and I think that's what you were telling me -- under 30(1)(i)?
Mrs Cunningham: I'm asking this question: Why do we need the reference committee referral in 20(1) if in fact it's referred to in 30(1)(i), which has just been brought to my attention, where the Lieutenant Governor has the authority to make those regulations? Is there a reason for it here?
Ms Beall: Perhaps I could be of assistance. If you look at clause 30(1)(i), it provides for enacting regulations respecting the establishment and composition of reference committees. What that refers to is the process of the establishment, how they come to be established, and "composition" of course represents something to do with the actual composition of the committees.
To make that clearer, if you go back to subsection 20(1), it says, "Reference committees may be established, in accordance with the regulations." It provides for the possibility of making regulations which deal with not the power to establish, not the requirement to establish, but the details about the establishment. Subsection 20(1) provides the power to make reference committees under this act. The regulations section, 30(1)(i), talks about the regulations with respect to the process, how that power would be carried out.
Ms Murdock: Just a question. In relation to this, given section 19, which establishes councils, or subcommittees, as they're called, am I to understand then reference committees are something above and beyond subcommittees that would be established only for very particular kinds of items and that this gives the flexibility for that? They're not the same as a subcommittee, correct?
Mr Gary Wilson: Exactly: They're not the same. The councils in effect are sectoral groups having to do with the various aspects that OTAB will be dealing with, whereas the reference committees refer to the groups that make up the board of directors. There will be a reference group for business, a reference group for labour, a reference group for the individual equity groups. They will be providing information --
I'd like to comment that there is one reference to funding in the bill. Section 21 states, "OTAB may charge fees for its services, in the amounts fixed by the regulations made under this act." But there's no definition of what type of fees would be levied. I don't believe this is appropriate. Fees should not be fixed by regulation and decisions regarding funding should be made by the board. That's how I feel about it.
There were, I think, two groups that made these observations during the hearings. One was the Sarnia chamber of commerce. They indicated, "We need to know the intent of this section, who the fees will be charged to and how will they be formulated and at what amounts." Then the London chamber went on to state that it was: "deeply concerned about the method by which OTAB will be funded. If a training head tax or employer levy is used, it will result not in increased employment but job losses for already overtaxed and regulated employers."
I think this clause opens the door for the implementation of a payroll tax for training. We're certainly not in favour of that kind of tax when we're looking for more investment in Ontario and for businesses to come and establish themselves here. If that's the indication -- and I certainly expect the government to respond to it in some way right now -- I think it's not giving the opportunities and the spirit of cooperation we need in order to get this training structure moving -- in spite of the exclusion of the education community, I might add, almost the exclusion, when we gave the government so many opportunities to increase the number of seats for education. It's so important that this all move forward, especially with apprenticeship training programs in our schools. But to be talking about money or fees in this section I think is totally inappropriate, so I don't think the section should be there at all.
With regard to the minister's statement earlier today, where he referred to one of the opposition parties -- I think it was probably the Liberal Party; I know he wouldn't refer to us in this regard -- raising this as an issue, I can say that we did not raise payroll tax as one of the solutions in any way. As an issue, it was raised by the Ontario Federation of Labour. It was put forward in their own documentation, including their pamphlets, which I didn't think was a very positive way to go when we're starting deliberations around how we train and how much we need the private sector to be involved.
I'd also like to say at this point in time that the makeup of the other training boards and councils in the models that you presented us from Europe depend very heavily on private sector involvement for the makeup of the business community. I just don't think it's appropriate to have any section in the bill itself referring to the funding. That's why we would like to see this be withdrawn. I'd like to hear your response to that.
Mr Gary Wilson: I'd like to respond in two ways, in the first place to say why it is there, because obviously this has become a bit of a flashpoint in that it's led to misunderstanding, and in part, even a puzzling misunderstanding. To listen to you, Ms Cunningham, you're implying that you do want the board to be able to set its own fees apart from regulation, which regulation puts very strict controls on how fees can be raised since only the government can impose the fees that would come about.
But to go back to the explanation, it's there simply because there are apprenticeship programs that now charge fees. Since these programs will be part of OTAB, and for it to continue in the way that it has been done in the past, therefore there has to be some provision for fees. But it also says that fees will be done in accordance with regulation, and again, that implies that the government has to be involved in the setting of regulations. It can't be the board itself, which would lessen public control.
Secondly, to the question of whether this sets the stage for a payroll tax, it has been consistently said in the committee hearings that it's not the intention of this legislation to bring in a payroll tax, partly because it's impossible to do it. This is legislation setting up OTAB, not to deal with a tax bill, which is what the payroll tax would require. To say that one group has come forward to say that there should be a payroll tax is also something that we heard in the hearings, but it's also something that predated the hearings. The OFL has long called for some form of payroll tax, and just as in the hearings other groups came forward with their proposals that they've had long-standing, the understanding was once they came here, compromises took place that led to the kind of legislation that we're bringing forward. So the fact that the fees are there is simply to account for a process that's already in place.
This addition, Mr Chairman, flows on the concern that Mr Phillips expressed I think so eloquently a little while ago that while labour is represented and while business is represented, we have a concern that people aren't represented, and this little, modest addition won't seem unreasonable to anybody as a way of ensuring that at least if people aren't represented, they have rights of inquiry. We would like this addition to go forward to set up a basis whereupon members of the public are entitled to examine records, ask questions and gather information.
Mr Gary Wilson: This question of accountability has come up fairly often. I think we've discussed it very thoroughly and discovered that there is a lot of accountability in the legislation as it is now. For instance, OTAB is subject to the freedom of information law and therefore people have access to its data through that method. Secondly, OTAB has to file an annual report to the minister and therefore the Legislature can get involved in anything it wants to question in the annual report of OTAB.
As I said, there has been extensive discussion about the accountability that OTAB has to have to the government. The minister has a very direct control on, or at least direct access to, the way OTAB runs. Since the government is accountable through the Legislature and ultimately to the people, we think the mechanism does provide what in effect your amendment is asking for.
Mr Henderson: Even granting that there is accountability built into the bill as it stands at the moment, why would anybody want to object to just a little bit more accountability in a way that opens up opportunities for members of the public to examine things and ask questions and become involved in the process? I understand the comments that the parliamentary assistant makes, but it just seems to me that this would be a neat and useful addition to the legislation.
Mrs Cunningham: Thank you. I move that subsection 30(2) of the bill be struck out and the following substituted -- so we're changing the words here under "consultation" and it should read, "Before a regulation is made under subsection (1), the minister shall consult with OTAB and with each reference committee about it."
If there are reference committees struck at that point in time, we feel that they should be consulted as well, because the board itself would have thought it important enough to have these reference groups, for whatever the purpose might be. If in fact the experts have been asked to consult with any sector of the board or with the board itself as a whole, it's probably with regard to any new training program or perhaps regulations that may have to be developed to make things work more smoothly.
This suggestion was given to us by the Council of Ontario Universities. We listened to them as they explained it. There were others as well who brought this forward. They recommended this change to ensure that the labour force partners were consulted on all regulations associated with OTAB and any reference groups that they may feel are important to the decisions.
We're just expanding on this section and asking that reference groups that are part of the consultative process at that time -- because they must be important if they need legislation for them to be established -- ought also to be part of the consultation around any regulations.
Mr Gary Wilson: The way we see this is that it does -- I guarantee that there will be consultation with the board before any regulations are brought in, and to raise the question of the reference groups is to undermine the independence of the board.
In part, though, there is the fact that the minister can consult with whomever he or she wants. So the way it's written out doesn't restrict the people that the minister can consult with; it is guaranteed though that the consultation will take place.
Mrs Cunningham: The Council of Ontario Universities has suggested that we add reference groups, and the reason they felt so strongly about it -- there were others as well, but this is the one that I can relate to because I spent some time talking to them about it -- is that if they are called in and asked to be part of a reference group and there is some issue that is being addressed through regulations, they feel that if they are going to give their time and expertise, as opposed to the only two members in the education representation to the board, they should be consulted as well and that they ought to certainly be given the courtesy of that.
That was their recommendation, so I am putting this forward on their behalf. I just thought, as an active member of the university community who has often felt left out of the consultative process, that you may have something to say about this.
Mr Sutherland: The only comment I have to make about it is that I was able to find many ways to be involved in a consultative process. On the whole, students were well represented there and I certainly hope they get well represented on the committee that's selecting the new president so that they can follow on in those lines. So there are ways of being involved in the consultation process without it formally being in the legislation.
Mrs Cunningham: My only response to that is, I think it's interesting that the same minister has chosen to ask a student to be part of the commission on education. Now we find that not only will students be left out -- because they don't have a place on the OTAB, although it was requested that they have one as part of the education sector -- but now, if in fact they are part of the reference groups, if in fact the reference group is students, there's no assurance that they will be consulted with regard to any changes in the regulations. That is the intent of our amendment.
Mrs Cunningham: The parliamentary assistant has a wonderful opportunity here, his last chance. I should remind you that one of the government amendments was struck out and the word "Liberal" was put above that government motion. Therefore, the Liberals can now say they got one amendment. This is our last chance to be useful.
Mrs Cunningham: This is not a token amendment. It's a good, commonsense amendment and it's the kind of thing the public is looking for. Some people might even call it a type of sunset clause, where you have a chance to look back.
"30.1(1) On or before the second anniversary of the coming into force of this act, the standing committee on resources development shall undertake a comprehensive review of this act and of the composition, funding and operations of OTAB, its councils and designated local training and adjustment boards.
"(2) Within one year after beginning its review, the committee shall make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly regarding amendment to this act and changes to be made in its implementation and administration."
I've just a short comment. The amendment will require that two years after the date on which the bill comes into force it will be reviewed by the standing committee on resources development, this committee, which shall conduct a public inquiry into the implementation and administration of the legislation. The standing committee shall be given the mandate to report its findings to the Legislative Assembly and to recommend amendments to address any negative impacts resulting from the act, its implementation, application and administration.
Thirdly, the School Boards Sector Working Group recommended that the legislation be amended to include a mandatory audit and review process. They also recommended that a formal evaluation, audit and review of the composition, mandate and funding of the OTAB, its councils and local boards be undertaken within two years of their establishment.
I think the school board working group is feeling particularly left out in regard to the strong recommendations it made for the makeup, to have more representation on the OTAB board itself. I think they're very concerned that the education community may not be consulted to the extent that it ought to be consulted.
Just as important, and the point I would really like to underline, I think one of the main reasons we ought to be looking at how this board is working has a lot to do with how it relates to young people, how it can have an impact on how attitudes have to be changed in our province and in our country with regard to the importance of apprenticeship training programs. This can only happen by introducing the facts to children in their early education years with respect to where the jobs are in the new economy, where the training has to take place and how successful people are who often don't have a university degree or college degree. They can be particularly successful in many ways in life, even with regard to remuneration, when they are apprentices.
I think that whole focus of the board may be lost in that there aren't the necessary representatives there from the education community. In spite of the fact that they weren't listened to, I think this is a very responsible recommendation on their part, and I'm putting it forward on their behalf because at least we'll see, in two years, just how well the board is working.
I am only speaking with reference to the education community at this point in time for the amendment, but there are very many other reasons for it that I'm sure I don't need to go into at this time. I'll hear from the parliamentary assistant, and if I have to make a further case, then I'll do that.
Mr Gary Wilson: I do want to assure you, Ms Cunningham, that we have listened carefully to what you said. I think you've really strengthened our understanding of this legislation. Indeed, anyone who reads Hansard I think will see that in our defending of it, the reasons the legislation is written as it is were brought to light by your submission. Certainly you've had a very important role in our understanding of this, just to see how it was put together and what it's trying to do.
Here, again -- I can use this as an example -- what you're doing is appearing to add some accountability to it that we think is there already. I would just like to read out the various ways that there is control of the directors. For instance, the directors of OTAB will serve for up to three years. At the end of their term, they will be reviewed as part of the appointments process. The term of appointments to councils and local boards will be set out in the regulations, and review can be part of the reappointment process. OTAB will be subject to an annual audit and must submit multi-year plans, annual plans and annual reports to government.
We think there is a very careful review of what OTAB is doing just by the government, but as you say, it has to succeed in the community as well, that we are all interested in providing better training than goes on now. We recognize, as we've heard from all sections of the community through the public hearings, that people are interested in improving our training system, and we think OTAB is the way to do it.
Mrs Cunningham: All right. I'm not going to let you off easily on that. With regard to your first point, I totally disagree. I don't think it has anything to do with accountability. It has everything to do with appointments, and that's part of the regulatory stuff we see around here all the time. Most boards and commissions have a term. You take a look at it. People can reapply. I don't see that this adds anything. It's not at all meeting the demands for accountability as we move forward.
The second point I'd like to agree with you on. I think the annual audit is extremely responsible and I certainly commend the government for putting that in as part of its legislation. I should also say, though, that with regard to the intent of this phrase that on or before the second anniversary this bill be brought back to this standing committee to take a look at a comprehensive review, we not only talk about whatever "audit" means, we talk about specifically the composition, the funding and operations of OTAB, its councils and designated local training and adjustment boards. It is inclusive. Is the intent of the government that the annual audit take into consideration all of the categories I just referred to? Is that what your intent is? Is this both a program and finance audit that will take in all the categories I just referred to?
Mrs Cunningham: I know, but there will be categories within the audit, and the categories that I have expanded on are normal categories for any audit process, in my view, either a program or a finance audit, which in fact should not be conducted separately. They should be conducted together.
I'm saying that we've given you examples. We've said, take a look at the composition, take a look at the funding and operations -- that would be the finance part -- take a look at the councils and designated local training and adjustment boards and how they have been useful or otherwise, how they've operated well or otherwise. Those would be the normal terms of reference to take a look at in any audit process. Is it your intent that when you say "annual audit," you're going to do that kind of program audit, or what kind of audit are you referring to?
Mr Gary Wilson: I think the audit does refer to the funding part which you have in your amendment. The composition is what the standing committee on government agencies would be looking at through the OIC appointments, and the operations are the plans that are referred to also in the section that we're talking about. But I think an important aspect to keep in mind here is that we do want to give the board an opportunity to work, just as we do the LTABs as well. If you put down too tight a control, which is what, in a way at least, the intent of your amendment seems to suggest, then they won't be able to work.
Mrs Cunningham: No, that's not the intent. The intent is to take a look at those operating functions of the board and see how well it's working. I think you're protesting too much here. If you don't want the amendment, you can at least say that those are the kinds of things you would take into consideration if in fact the government intends for this agency to go to the standing committee on government agencies. That would have been a responsible response. So don't protest too much, because I think this is exactly what you're going to do. Just say it.
Mrs Cunningham: I appreciate my colleagues giving me these suggestions, Mr Chairman. I think it's my responsibility, as we feel strongly about this and as others feel strongly about it, to have it as part of the legislation. Sunset clauses are not new within the province of Ontario. We feel, as this is a new agency and it is arm's length, that the government would have more control if it were clearly delineated that its progress would be looked at seriously. That was the intent; it's a very serious intent. I am aware of all the other ways of doing things. I'm also aware that I'm not a member of the government, and therefore, if the government really feels very strongly about this, it would put it into the act. But that's fine. I'm listening to the arguments against it, and they'll be well documented.