The Chair (Mrs Margaret Marland): Good morning, members of the committee. We will start our meeting of the standing committee on government agencies, and today we are dealing with the draft reports on those agencies which we have previously reviewed.
The Chair: We're going to start with the Ontario Human Rights Commission draft, and I think what we'll do is have our researcher take us through it, unless the committee has any other wishes. Would you like the researcher to take us through the draft report?
The first seven pages are simply a lead-in which I've lifted from the original briefing paper on the Human Rights Commission. It just provides a background to the issues the committee dealt with during the testimony. So I'll go right to page 7 and the heading halfway down the page, "The Testimony of the Commission."
The first section of this, following your instructions, lays out the initiatives and the reforms introduced by Ms Brown at the commission, her eight organizational initiatives. They are described on page 7, page 8, page 9 and the top of page 10.
At the top of page 10, at the conclusion of the description of Ms Brown's reforms, under the bullet points, I've listed the results of her reforms and the progress the commission has made in streamlining its procedures and cutting down its backlog.
I draw your attention to the two paragraphs in the middle of page 10. The committee instructed me to do two things: One, indicate that essentially the committee was pleased with the approach taken by Ms Brown, that under her direction the commission was on the right track, that it was making progress in addressing the issues which have been raised over the years by various studies and reports and that essentially, generally speaking, the committee was impressed with the efforts of the current team. That's the first paragraph starting, "The committee was impressed by...."
However, the committee also decided, if you recall, that it should look at the reforms and the critiques proposed by some of the witnesses, and you asked me to describe the reforms proposed by the witnesses which could build on the existing framework of change introduced by Rosemary Brown.
In that light, the next section, "What the Committee Heard About the Commission," describes the testimony offered by witnesses who deal with the commission, such as CERA, ARCH, Mary Eberts, a well-known lawyer, and other interest groups who have been affected by the commission, the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, the Fair Rental Policy Organization of Ontario, and that's it. That goes on from page 10 through to the top of page 14. That again, I hope, is a fair description of their experiences with the commission over the last three or four years.
As I mentioned a second ago, you wanted the report to focus on reforms proposed by the witnesses which were workable, which built on the existing work being done, hence the heading "Reforms Proposed by the Witnesses" on the top of page 14. What I've done in this section is organize sort of the observations, suggestions for change proposed by witnesses which were more or less compatible with the existing policy framework.
They're organized by theme because, as you know, many witnesses came back to the same themes over and over again. Actually, before we get to that, I should read out this paragraph because this language was proposed by some of the members, to draw your attention to it:
"The committee believes Ms Brown and her colleagues have made a commendable start in tackling the backlog problem. Members agree that the challenge ahead for the commission is to learn how to use its existing resources (which in the present economic climate are not likely to increase) more efficiently, in order to target the more important cases, provide expeditious justice to complainants and reduce the backlog."
Proceeding to "The Jurisdiction of the Commission": You recall many of the witnesses came back to the point, over and over again, that the commission had an ambitious view of its jurisdiction and was constantly trying -- this is the witnesses alleging this -- to expand its jurisdiction and that this was one of the root causes of the backlog or case load management problem.
Russell Juriansz, an employment lawyer who had worked at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, now in private practice, actually used the phrase "jurisdiction-hungry." This came up a few times, and as a practising lawyer he had several examples of policy areas where he felt the commission was deliberately expanding its jurisdiction beyond that which it could handle effectively.
You'll recall that the testimony of the Fair Rental Policy Organization, FRPO, was largely devoted to this issue. It felt the commission had taken on essentially what it regarded as social issues, such as the minimum-income controversy, which were better dealt with by the Legislature in the form of amendments to the Human Rights Code. That's page 15, moving right along, and all of page 16.
At page 17, as you directed, I summarized the proposals from the witnesses which would address this alleged problem. That's the bullet points on page 17, so I draw your attention to that. With the bullet points on page 17 there is essentially a summary of all the recommendations made by witnesses dealing with this particular point.
You read that paragraph on page 14 which says, "Members agree that the challenge ahead...is to learn how to use its existing resources...more efficiently, in order to target the more important cases, provide expeditious justice...and reduce the backlog."
To me, that is very clear and straightforward, but it doesn't quite jibe with page 10, which you referred to. Halfway down the page it says, "the witnesses suggested that efforts by commission staff to eliminate the backlog were adversely affecting the integrity of the commission's investigatory procedures." I have a problem with the word "integrity" of the procedures.
Mr Daniel Waters (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I apologize for not picking up on it, but I had a couple of things that I was a bit concerned with on page 17. As we go through it, I'd like to discuss the time, whether indeed, if it's some of the latter bullet points -- undue hardship, how you deal with that, and a number of other things. I recognize at this point that we're just going through it, David, and it's probably better that after you go through it all, we come back. But I would like some further discussion on 17.
Page 18: Another theme regularly addressed by the witnesses, especially community groups that do work on behalf of complainants, was this notion that once a complaint is filed with the commission, the complainant loses carriage and the commission becomes the sole authority responsible for carrying through the complaint.
If you recall, many of the witnesses -- in fact probably most of them -- suggested there should be some kind of guaranteed right to a hearing so that complainants, given the right circumstances, could go right to a hearing. I hate to put it this way, but basically what they are suggesting is that essentially they could go around the commission directly to some kind of statutory hearing. You'll recall that most of the witnesses addressed this kind of reform to one degree or another, and on page 18 and the top of page 19, all I've tried to do is to summarize that testimony.
Just to finish that off, if you recall, Mr Juriansz, in the middle of page 19 here, issued a note of caution. He said it's impractical to guarantee every complainant a hearing, given the innumerable complaints the commission adjudicates every year. So his proposal and that of Mr MacKillop, another lawyer, was simply to strengthen the pre-hearing conference procedures that the commission is already using.
If you beef up the pre-hearing conferences and mediation techniques, you may be able to provide satisfaction to the complainants without guaranteeing them a full-blown, full-dress statutory hearing. But, as I say, this is something -- you know better than I do -- virtually all the witnesses came back to over and over again.
Moving on, a related issue is the boards of inquiry. I'm now on the bottom of page 19, top of page 20. Many of the witnesses pointed out that there is also an alleged backlog at the board of inquiry level, which of course in strict legal terms is separate from the commission itself.
Mr Juriansz, at the top of page 20, suggested that really the existing board of inquiry should be beefed up: There should be a full-time board of inquiry; it should be larger; there should be full-time professionals sitting on the boards of inquiry. As you know, currently the boards of inquiry are ad hoc affairs, usually staffed by law professors who fit the hearings in between their classes.
I quote Mr Juriansz here. He says it's "nothing short of scandalous" that in 1994 there is not a full-time professional board of inquiry. He was very emphatic about that. In fact you will recall he said if there's one thing the committee should recommend, it should recommend that there be a full-time board of inquiry, once again to deal with this problem of backlog and case load management. Again, I'm your messenger here at this point in the report. I'm just outlining what you were told.
Following on, Mr Lou Ronson, a former vice-chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, suggested that the equivalent of a Small Claims Court be established with no more than three full-time commissioners sitting as a tribunal to adjudicate selected cases of lesser importance. This was his proposal to address the backlog, bottom of page 20.
Another theme in the testimony of witnesses was the role of community organizations. If you recall, many of the community organizations, the advocacy groups, that appeared recommended that they have a greater role in helping complainants file complaints and even in processing complaints. I summarize their arguments on page 21 and the top of page 22.
If you recall, Ms Brown on her second appearance before the committee actually addressed this issue. I summarized what she said for you on the middle of page 22. She pointed out that community groups already work closely with the commission in the development of policy -- not the adjudication of complaints but the policy. She pointed out that under the existing law the commission does have the sole legal responsibility for adjudicating and carrying complaints. She pointed out that the investigatory and adjudicative processes are supposed to be neutral. To allow community groups that inevitably have their own perspective on life to get involved with the commission at that level, you might compromise the perceived neutrality of the commission. So you have two points of view here: You have the points of view of the community groups in this issue and you have the point of view of the chair of the commission.
The next section, the bottom of page 22, "Structural Reforms," outlines some changes and some observations which might conceivably require a more ambitious overhaul of the commission. Several witnesses, Brian Shell of the Steelworkers and Mary Eberts, argued that essentially the government and the commission should be focusing more on systemic discrimination. If you shifted the focus to systemic discrimination, the number of individual complaints over time would decrease, you address the root causes of discrimination. Their proposals are on page 23 here.
Page 24: If you recall, many witnesses argued that the commission tries to do too much. It plays too many different roles: It's an adjudicative body, it's an investigative body, it's a policy body. Many witnesses, both community groups like CERA and employment lawyers like Mr MacKillop, argued that one body couldn't do everything and that there was inherent conflict of interest between these roles.
If you recall, employers, for example, or employers' representatives, who appeared before the committee argued over and over again that, as far as they were concerned, the commission was biased. Ms Brown would reply: "Well, no, we're not. We're neutral when we investigate complaints." Essentially, they're arguing at cross-purposes. When employees were arguing that the commission was biased, they were referring, whether they realized it or not, to the commission as a policy institution.
You've heard some of the examples they raised: the proposal about the minimum-income rule for landlords; the case about pornography in corner stores. Those are policy issues the commission deals with which are institutionally distinct from the adjudication of individual complaints. I think what's happening is that many employers are merging the two in their minds. I think the complaint is, "We don't trust the commission when it makes broad statements about policy and therefore we don't trust them when they come into my workshop to adjudicate an individual complaint."
Many witnesses argued that essentially you should break up the commission: You'd have one body dealing with the broad issues of systemic discrimination, for example -- that's the most common example -- and you'd have another kind of institution dealing with the adjudication of individual complaints.
I'm now on the top of page 25, the second bullet point. Mr Ubale, who's a former member of both the Human Rights Commission here and the federal Human Rights Commission, essentially argued that Ontario should adopt the British model. In the British model you have tribunals which hear all employment-related complaints, and then you have a central bureaucratic body which deals with the larger issues such as systemic discrimination. He argued that's the route we should follow in Ontario.
Of course, the most ambitious proposal for total change is the Cornish report, which I address on pages 25 and 26. If you recall, we had Mary Cornish before the committee. In 1992 she released the report, which is a total, global view of the Human Rights Commission. Virtually every witness addressed it to one degree or another, either positively or negatively or somewhere in between. The committee agreed at its last meeting that, whether or not it agreed with every detail of the Cornish report or whether the government agreed with every detail of the Cornish report, the witnesses who are out there in the community waiting for a response to the Cornish report deserved a formal government response. Hence the black bold type on the top of page 26:
To continue, under the heading "Other Issues" on page 26, this section summarizes other issues which the committee addressed during its brainstorming session in February, if you recall. The first one was employment equity. Several members of the committee want this committee to recommend that the Employment Equity Act be implemented as soon as possible. Hence the italics at the bottom of page 26. Mr Curling's one of them. He's not here today but, if you recall, he wants the committee to recommend that.
On the top of page 27, several members discussed the makeup of the commission currently. Ms Brown herself "indicated that the commission needed more members who were bilingual," to conduct hearings in French, and that it was also actively "encouraging the first nations" of Ontario to suggest a member "to sit on the commission." During the brainstorming session, several members suggested that if the commission was to win the confidence or keep the confidence of various community groups, including employers, then those groups had to feel that the commission represented Ontario society. The example given was that currently only one out of the 10 commissioners is actually an employer representative on the commission. So I put that in there, once again, just to flag that for you.
Then there was a discussion about whether commissioners should be allowed to stay on. As you know, there's sort of an unwritten rule now in Ontario that appointments to agencies, boards and commissions should have two terms. One member of the committee, who's not here right now, suggested that it seemed a bit of a shame that when you had commissioners on for six years, by that point they were well along the learning curve, they were probably experts on the subject and at that point they had to go off the commission. So one member of the committee suggested -- this is at the top of page 28, the third recommendation in bold -- "The government consider reappointing commissioners for more than two terms when deemed appropriate."
The next issue kicked around by the committee was the accountability of the commission, if you recall. Some members felt that consideration should be given to having the commission report directly to the Legislature instead of through the government, on the grounds that the commission was an adjudicative body and because some of the complaints filed with the commission were directed against the government in various of its manifestations.
Finally, the last issue, "Administrative Reform": In her speaking notes for her appearance here, the minister pointed out that plans were well under way to merge the administrative infrastructure of the Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal, the boards of inquiry under the Human Rights Code and the new Employment Equity Tribunal. She pointed out in her speaking notes, but she didn't actually get a chance to put those speaking notes on the record, that eventually the government was looking at significant cost savings, sharing of professional experience among adjudicators, that sort of thing, as a result of this initiative. Some members of the committee suggested that in this report the committee should note these efforts and commend the government for moving in this direction. That's it.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I appreciate him taking us through the report. It certainly brings us up to date and enlightens us on some of the hearings that we held. I'm wondering how we're going to handle these. We have three reports today, and some of our critics are not here. Mr Curling is not here; Mr Cousens is not here. I'm wondering if we should go through the three reports like we have this one and then let it go back to our caucuses and come back and then try to deal with specifics. We could get into specifics this morning on any one of these and go on and on and on. I'm wondering if we shouldn't let our caucuses deal with them and then come back again. I like the way he took us through this one, and I'd like to go through the other two the same way, so that gives us a little broader view of it.
The Chair: Normally, I think that what we do is, we have the presentation of the draft reports, we ask questions -- you, being the committee members, ask the questions -- and then they are taken back to your own caucuses for review and then you come back with changes or recommendations and the final discussion for the final report. So we should perhaps talk about a time line for when we would expect to bring these back to our researcher and then in turn look at receiving a final report.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): I don't know if this is accurate or not, but I understand that the government is going to be announcing a royal commission on workers' compensation perhaps as early as today. That's the rumour in the halls here. Many of these recommendations that are here may well wind up going to such a royal commission but many may not; many may be seen as being pulled out and dealt with in relationship to the PLMAC, the Premier's Labour-Management Advisory Committee, which has also reported.
So perhaps with the workers' comp issue on here it would be appropriate to give it maybe as much as three or four weeks before you actually bring it back to committee. But I think it would be important that it does come back, because there are a number of recommendations that may well become documentation for the royal commission if indeed the Premier announces the formation. If they do not call a royal commission, then it would be equally as important to be dealt with in some recommendations to the government. So some delay in dealing with this might be quite appropriate today. I don't know about the other two as much.
Mr McLean: I would have thought that probably just the opposite may have been true. Maybe we should have dealt with this first, in two weeks' time, in order to have some input. If there's going to be what you're talking about, a commission set up, maybe dealing with it first would get it off our agenda and on to the commission's.
Mr Mahoney: The commission is going to take about three years, I believe; I don't know too many that report much quicker than that. So whether you deal with this in two weeks -- I'm happy either way. I just think it's important that we recognize that there are other things going on with regard to workers' compensation. In fact, I myself will be releasing a report around the middle of April which might or might not be of interest to members.
Mr Waters: What I might suggest is what Mr McLean originally suggested to us, that we go back and look these things over within our caucuses. We had looked at coming back not next week but the week after, and at that point we can make the decision whether to go on with WCB or indeed let it lie where it is if there is such a commission.
The Chair: I was only pulling your leg when I said that. I think because of the sincerity of the work that's been done by the committee on all these three agencies, it's important to complete our reports and say, "This is what we think as a result of our work." If there happens to be a further examination of the Workers' Compensation Board, then it would just be a complement to that.
We may, on the 13th, not be able to deal in depth with the input from the caucuses on all three reports, so you may want to prioritize which reports you deal with on the 13th. Does that sound reasonable?
The Chair: If we deal with them on the 13th in the same order as today, and you want to get the WCB report off in a direction, if there was going to be a commission, you might want to start with the WCB on the 13th.
Mr McLean: Madam Chair, I would probably make a suggestion that if we did the food terminal one first -- I think it's going to be the simplest, the easiest and the quickest -- and get it out of the way, then we can probably do the WCB on the same day, or start it at least. But I think the food terminal is the one that we can get out of the way easily.
Mr Waters: All I was going to say was that on Mr Mahoney's concern, I believe that on the 13th we can deal with that concern. If indeed the rumour that you're hearing is correct, then obviously it wouldn't be a rumour by then. At that point we, as the committee, would have full knowledge of what's going on and we'd be able to deal with it.
Mr Jerry Richmond: Thank you, Madam Chairman, members of the committee. David did such a good job that I'm just going to follow in his footsteps. He was the top of the batting order, I guess, to use baseball terminology.
You've got the package of material. The food terminal report is the second one. If you undo the big, black paper clip you can just take it out. The covering memo is self-explanatory. What I've done in the report is attempt to reflect the background information and representations that were made to the committee before. I've reflected to the best of my ability the previous deliberations of the committee and taken into account the correspondence between Mrs Marland and the Minister of Ag and Food.
Just a notation there -- the clerk will receive confirmation on this -- we believe that the name of the Ministry of Ag and Food has changed. They've added in Rural Affairs. Lynn will be receiving some confirmation from the ministry, and if that is the case, we will make the necessary adjustment in the text of the report. That's just a housekeeping thing. There's one reference still in the report to Ag and Food, but we will make it consistent.
Over the page, in the covering memo, it just outlines that the report is organized in two parts. Pages 1 to 9 include background information that's very similar to the material that was presented to you earlier in my background paper on the food terminal. The second part of the report, pages 9 through 27, includes commentary on the issues which were discussed before the committee and also includes draft recommendations, of which there are some 16.
Now, in some cases, when you look at it, the recommendations are presented to present you with alternatives, to give you some sense, depending upon the direction the committee wants to go. I just want to indicate that to you, that you may want to pick and choose some of the recommendations. There may eventually be debate or consensus or otherwise. As David indicated, none of these recommendations are carved in stone. It's up to the committee. They're merely suggestions that I've attempted to reflect the earlier discussion and put some material on the table for you to consider.
Moving into the report itself, page 1 is pretty well self-explanatory. It's very close to what was presented to you earlier. The first paragraph is a general description of the food terminal and its location in Etobicoke on a site of almost 39 acres. We did visit the site. The food terminal opened in 1954. The second paragraph just highlights the previous committee discussion of the food terminal, and any further meetings -- it appears that there will be a meeting on April 13. Reference to that will be added in here later. Moving down the page, that just highlights that the report reflects the various background materials and deliberations of the committee.
Over the page, the sentence in italics is just for your guidance in the draft. It reiterates that the report contains several alternative recommendations. That will be removed from the final report. That's just a notation for the committee's benefit.
On page 2, the background information, the history that was presented to you earlier: It reviews some of the debate in the Legislature in the late 1940s when the Ontario Food Terminal Act was passed and when the decision was made to establish a food terminal.
On page 3, you see some excerpts from the Hansard debate by the Minister of Agriculture of the day that gives you some of the rationale as to why the government made a decision in the late 1940s to establish a food terminal, and there's some additional descriptive material on the expansion of the food terminal, capital improvements that have been undertaken over the years.
At the bottom of page 3, I move into the section which highlights the food terminal act and the supporting regulations. These were distributed to you earlier and they were discussed. That just highlights some of the basic provisions in the statute, such as a seven-person board that, as you know, is appointed by order in council.
Over the page, on page 4, it just highlights the function of the food terminal to essentially operate a wholesale fruit and produce market. It highlights some numbers, the number of growers and buyers who patronize this facility. Similarly, it highlights some other pertinent sections of the enabling statute and just highlights the two regulations, regulations 871 and 872, that are adopted pursuant to this statute.
Over the page, on page 5, this reiterates the purpose, objectives and general operation of the food terminal, some excerpts from the annual report. Down the page, towards the bottom of page 5, other key supporting documents submitted to the committee and relating to the food terminal are highlighted, the latest annual report is highlighted, and some of the financial figures.
Over the page, on page 6, the corporate plan which was discussed is highlighted, and some of the capital projects and improvements that were anticipated. It gives you a sense of those that have been completed and those, like the parking deck extension, which are still to be undertaken.
The middle paragraph on page 6 highlights the farmers' market task force report that came out in 1992 and its suggested major recommendation, to restrict the farmers' market portion to essentially Ontario-grown produce. That issue was discussed and reference to it is made later.
Moving over the page, on page 7, the middle section there, I recall that Dr Frankford, I believe, asked a question pertaining to this. This highlights the four previous reviews since the late 1970s of the food terminal board by committees of the Legislature. I have those detailed reports back in my office; I would gladly Xerox the details.
Mr McLean, and I believe you also, Madam Chairman, were involved in some of the earlier reviews. One of the major issues discussed over the years was the perpetual leases, and you see reference to that. At the bottom of page 7, there's a quotation from a 1988 report of this committee that reiterates the committee view at that time on the perpetuity clause provision in the warehouse leases, and that quotation may indeed reflect the position of the committee today.
Mr Richmond: The leases and a copy of a sample warehouse lease were distributed to you, where you can look at all the legalese. The leases were first granted in 1954, with this perpetuity clause. The rationale was to encourage growers and buyers to move to the food terminal, which was sort of out in the sticks in those days, from a downtown location near the rail yards.
The perpetuity clause ran for 30 years. It was renewed in 1984. The perpetuity clause is in there again, and you see the quotation in the middle of page 8, to the year 2014. The commentary on the next page reflects some of the earlier debate and the debate of this committee over the issue of how you can get around the leases, and there are various legal and economic complications.
The bottom of the page makes reference to the earlier C unit project that was contemplated by the food terminal and, due to market conditions, was cancelled in 1990. This project anticipated, on the south end of the food terminal property, building some additional five or 10 warehouse units. Because of a lack of market interest, this project was cancelled in 1990.
Mr Richmond: My understanding is, from Mr Carsley's testimony, there is some court action in connection with that. I believe I recall the senior board people mentioning that one of the tenants is disputing. I could expand on that.
Mr Richmond: Moving on, the second part on page 9, these are really the issues that the committee discussed and this contains the draft recommendations. I guess the major issue that was presented to us, primarily at the behest of the food terminal representatives, was the issue of the need to update the food terminal act and the related regulations. This is a major issue that was reiterated in various documents and in the presentations by the food terminal reps before us. The commentary there merely reflects that.
Then, at the bottom of page 9, there's a bullet point list of the issues as presented by food terminal board officials, the issues that they felt should be addressed in any update of the act and the related regulations. That merely highlights the earlier deliberations of the committee.
Then there is some commentary over the page, the second paragraph, some suggested lead-in wording there towards the recommendations. This reflects the deliberations of the committee, where I certainly got the sense that the committee seemed to prefer, rather than a complete rewrite of the act -- and I remember Mr Marchese going on the record -- giving some direction that you would want the food terminal board and the ministry to look at policy changes, procedural changes, possible changes to regulations before you got into a full-blown, massive, total review of the act.
If you read those draft recommendations in the paragraph above, the second half of page 10, that's my attempt to wrestle with that and put before you some recommendations. Unless you want, I don't propose to read the recommendations. I would suggest that if you read them, they should be self-explanatory. If you want me to read them, of course.
Those are for your consideration. So 1(A) is one of the recommendations. The second recommendation addresses the issue of preparation of conflict-of-interest guidelines to apply to the food terminal board. That's a suggested approach to that.
On page 11, the alternative text and recommendation, that's an additional point that could either be an option or an addition. You could either delete that or you could include it; it could be an additional point. After the food terminal board and the ministry address the first two recommendations, you may want to suggest that down the road they may want to address a full-blown review of the act. That's sort of an option, and you can deal with it as you will.
The next issue is the update of the food terminal's corporate plan. They do have one and it was distributed to you for 1992, 1993 and 1994. The text indicates that there are a number of capital improvements, like the parking deck extension. We saw the parking deck when we toured the facility. It covers the farmers' market. There's been consideration to extend it. That has not yet been undertaken, and there's the issue yet of a market for cut flowers. So you see some of the commentary there that addresses those issues.
The recommendations, over the page, are suggested draft recommendations of proposals for the committee. If you should choose to make recommendations on this matter, they're there for your consideration. It makes a suggestion with regard to the undertaking of the parking deck extension and another recommendation directing the Ontario Food Terminal Board to prepare a new corporate plan. If there are other issues you wish to put on the table, certainly these are not cast in stone. Unless there are questions, I will move on to the next section.
The next issue I've addressed is the recommendation of the farmers' market task force essentially to restrict the produce brought into the farmers' market to only Ontario produce. This recommendation of the farmers' market task force 1992 report has not yet been addressed by either the food terminal or the ministry. The commentary reflects what this issue is all about; it reflects the debate of the committee, moving over to page 13. It's a complex matter, from both a policy and legal perspective.
There are really two alternatives, the first being that the committee would not make a specific recommendation, and you see the rationale on page 13. There were concerns about possible retaliation from other trading partners, both domestically and internationally. That commentary there leaves it as an issue for future consideration. The last proposed sentence on page 13 reads, "The food terminal board and the ministry...may...monitor the situation and hold further deliberations on this matter if conditions warrant." You identify it as a complex issue, but the proposal is that in this case, as an alternative, the committee does not really direct that or make a recommendation on that. That's one possibility.
When you look at the bottom of page 13, there's an alternative approach, option B, where the committee really accepts the position of the food terminal board and this farmers' market task force of going ahead to attempt to restrict the produce sold at the farmers' market to only Ontario-grown produce. Over the page, the commentary continues and you see the recommendation that comes forward there, recommendation 5, that suggests that OMAF and the food terminal should move ahead to actually restrict produce.
This issue has been discussed previously. It was discussed, as I mentioned, by previous committees. The text reviews the current situation and some of the complicating factors, and some of the earlier discussion. On page 15, it says the board indicated that it has a policy now that "restricts the number of warehouse units that may be held by one company to three." That reflects some of the earlier committee discussion.
The options: If you read through the text, the commentary reviews some of the complications, legal and financial, and when you move over the page there are the draft recommendations, and the commentary would lead into this. Recommendation 6 proposes that the food terminal board monitor the situation and seek, wherever possible, to take over the leases if lessees should surrender them, and take advantage of any other opportunities where tenants may be amenable to voluntarily surrender the lease or where businesses may otherwise give up the leases. That sort of reflects the status quo.
Recommendation 7 suggests that the board monitor market conditions, and, if market conditions warrant, monitor them every five years; and consider reactivating the C unit proposal of building additional warehouse units that would be rented on a non-perpetual basis.
Those are the possibilities I could think of. Someone else may have others. You could buy them out, but that, as we know, according to the legal and evidence presented to us, would probably cost a fair bit of money.
Moving on, unless there are questions, at the bottom of page 16 I address the issue we touched upon: the possible privatization of the food terminal. The commentary mentions the case of the quasi-privatization of the Ontario Stock Yards, where they've been closed and the land is going to be leased, with the proceeds going towards a livestock industry trust fund. That's a privatization of a sort of agricultural facility.
The commentary mentions that there was some consideration of privatization during the previous Liberal regime. There was a trip to a food terminal in New York City that was privatized. This reflects the presentations of Mr Carsley and the other board people. The text goes on and reiterates the potential value of a 39-acre site within the city of Etobicoke.
The commentary then reflects the materials provided by the ministry, that the food terminal performs its original mandate, and reiterates the importance from a jobs and economic perspective, spinoff jobs and the like, of the food terminal operation in the agricultural community within Ontario. Some of the other figures you see on page 18.
There are two alternative recommendations, 8(A) or (B): 8(A) recommends that the food terminal board be retained as a self-sustaining public agency; 8(B) suggests some approach to a possible feasibility study of what I've termed options to privatize. Those are some possibilities, and the committee can wrestle with those. If there are no questions, I'll move on to the next section.
The next section deals with the implications of the social contract on the food terminal and relates to a letter that was tabled before us, correspondence of August 19, 1993, by Mr Ireland, a letter to the Premier, that from the board's perspective they claim the terminal should not be under the coverage of the social contract. During testimony before the committee, the food terminal board people indicated that this correspondence had been referred to Mr Laughren.
In terms of possible recommendations, you have (A), (B) and (C) in this case: (A) is where the committee would say yes, the food terminal board should be under the social contract, (B) says it should not be required, and (C) leaves it up to the government and the food terminal board to resolve. I don't know how deeply the committee wants to get involved in this. Those are the three possibilities I could think of. Once again, I leave those for your consideration.
Impact of the recession is the next issue, on page 19, and this is merely a text where I review some of the facts and figures on the traffic going through the food terminal, review some of the previous legislative changes on page 20, and some market developments in the wholesale produce industry. The upshot of this is essentially a commentary, on page 21: "Following its tour of the terminal the committee came away with a generally favourable impression of the terminal's operation." You can see the rest of the text, and the final point is, "The terminal appears to be maintaining its position as an important component of the wholesale produce trade in Ontario." It's merely a commentary. There are no recommendations proposed here. It merely reflects the situation, the debate of the committee and the material presented and tabled with us.
The next section reviews -- and I think we reacted favourably during the tour -- the conservation/waste reduction program instituted by the food terminal. Once again, it's a review of some of the facts and figures presented to us, that through its 3Rs efforts the food terminal has diverted some 6,700 tonnes of waste from landfill and this has saved the board some $1 million. You see some of the other initiatives that are contemplated, and the commentary makes reference to the access by the food banks to the food terminal. The draft recommendation on page 22 essentially commends the board for these efforts and encourages further efforts in these areas. That's the proposal there. Unless there are questions, I'll move on.
The next section reviews -- and this issue was discussed and we certainly saw what I guess I would characterize as the underutilized rail siding and covered rail dock at the food terminal facility. Over the years, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, railway shipments of produce dominated, and over the years truck has come into prominence. The board officials indicated that only some 50 rail cars a year still come to the terminal. The commentary reflects the underutilization of the rail facility.
Recommendation 11 proposes a feasibility study to really look at the dual use of the rail dock area -- not that it would be closed, but that the food terminal consider alternative uses; if a boxcar or refrigerated car of produce should come in, the rail track would still be there, but that in the interim they look at alternative uses.
Recommendation 12: I happen to be a bit of rail buff, and from reading some of the literature, you get the sense, rightly or wrongly, that CN and CP are emphasizing their north-south cross-border services. They've increased container and piggyback services. Recommendation 12 proposes a meeting of the affected parties to look at making increased use of the rail facility. You could add that the use of railways might be regarded as environmentally friendly, that they probably use less energy than trucks. This attempts to address that, where a meeting would be convened involving the ministries of Agriculture and Transportation and the two major railways to see if there's a possibility to increase the rail-shipped produce to the food terminal. Those are possibilities.
The next issue is workplace safety, which was addressed lightly by the committee. There's just a brief commentary. We did receive some information from the food terminal board indicating that this is a priority. The recommendation over the page, on page 24, merely suggests that they should continue these efforts.
The food terminal itself doesn't have a large staff, less than 40, 30-something, but of course at the food terminal there are forklift trucks and dollies and everything else running around with the tenants and buyers, so there is the potential for injury. This commentary reflects that.
The last issue the committee addressed, and Dr Frankford and Ms Carter were involved in this, was the issue of inspection of food for grades, pesticide residues, and the issue of irradiated food was also mentioned. The food terminal officials and the chair indicated that the terminal acts as a facilitator. It does provide access to the appropriate agricultural inspectors, who do sample the produce and send it away to testing labs. The commentary merely reflects this. However, and this reflects the testimony, it does not appear to be a direct matter that's under the purview of the food terminal board per se, so the text merely encourages the food terminal to continue providing access to the inspectors. Then the last sentence: "Since the matter of produce inspection, grading and sampling is outside of the direct mandate of the food terminal board, the committee has not put forward specific recommendations in this regard."
Mr Mahoney: I apologize, because I obviously wasn't part of the committee discussions on this, but several years ago, during the time we were in office, there was a proposal by the food terminal to build some additional storage space at the food terminal site. There were plans drafted and they went to the existing tenants, not necessarily the leaseholders. There are a number of people, as I'm sure you know from this report, leaseholders in the Ontario Food Terminal, who are nothing more than coupon clippers, who never go near the place, who in some cases have never even seen it. It's been passed on as part of a will within a family and they simply get a cheque every month from the people who actually sell the produce.
These leases came up for sale and there were actually some that changed hands, I believe, if my figures are correct, in the neighbourhood of $3 million or $4 million cash up front to buy the right to take over the lease for one of these establishments. There is an awful lot of money involved in the Ontario Food Terminal from the private sector's perspective.
The board felt it should create new spaces and it identified some area where it could build new spaces. They drew up plans and indeed went to a number of the tenants, who were not the leaseholders but were the subtenants for the leaseholders, and offered them an opportunity to submit a bid. Many of them did. In the case of Greg Vetere, a constituent of mine whose family, for some 26 years, his father before him and his brothers and sisters, operated Vetere produce in this place -- I forget the exact name, but it was Vetere groceries or something like that -- put up $70,000 to acquire one of the new stalls that were going to be built by the board. They paid this money as a deposit, and so did a number of others.
The board then went through the process of doing up the architectural drawings and setting aside the space, and I believe, if I'm not mistaken, actually built an expansion to the cold storage. But they never did build the stalls where they would actually sell their produce. Mr Vetere chose not to buy the lease, for $3 million or $4 million, on the facility he had been operating in for some 20 years, because he just couldn't justify the cost, nor could he come up with the money, and he was clearly led to believe by the board that he could buy one of the new stalls and he put up his $70,000.
Mr Vetere is currently embattled in a lawsuit with the ministry. Everybody says we can't deal with it because it's a lawsuit. Well, it's not in the courts. It's gone lawyer to lawyer. It's very bitter. I think this man has been shafted. He's lost his family business. He's lost the deposit he put down. He's incurred tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
I think it's one of the most incredible injustices I've ever seen. It's not a partisan thing, because the leases were set up during the Conservative regime, and it was during our regime that this project was supposed to have been built. In fact, Mr Vetere was heavily involved with Mrs Grier on this matter, who was very familiar with the issue when we were in government and you were in opposition, and was quite sympathetic.
Mr Mahoney: Did she? Well, the bureaucrats now are doing exactly what they did when we were in government: putting the blinkers on and keeping the minister away from it, for some strange reason. I apologize if I'm going over stuff you're all very familiar with, but I have not been part of the discussions here and I wonder if anybody has any ideas about how we might settle this thing, for Greg Vetere or for anybody else who's caught in this trap.
Mr Waters: I made a quick note in the margin for when we get into our deliberations: "Is this proper procedure?" I find it incredible that you put a deposit on something and the project is cancelled and the person holding your deposit gets to keep your money. I don't understand how that can happen, in the public sector or the private sector. I really have a problem with that. Between now and the time we come back in two weeks, I intend to ask the ministry for some further comment on that. I think it should be a major part of our discussion, that it has to be at least ferreted out by us as a committee.
Mr Waters: That's probably a better procedure. I would recommend at this point, and I think I would have the support of my colleagues from the other side, that we ask the ministry to give us an in-depth background on all of this, how this could happen.
Mr Mahoney: The answer I have received in attempting to deal with this -- and by the way, when I've gone in to talk to some of the ministry staff, everyone seems sympathetic. Everyone says, "Oh, this is unfair," and reacts very much the way you've reacted, because it's common sense. But then the board takes the position that it incurred expenses in drafting up architectural plans and things of that nature, and that these guys took their chances when they invested the money. They have settled with the others, as I understand it, for some lesser amount, a substantial reduction from the $70,000; I think they settled for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20,000 or $30,000 and kept the balance of the funds. They say it was offset by expenses they incurred and that these people should have known about it or something like that.
Frankly, the board stonewalls anybody attempting to resolve the matter. Part of the frustration -- I don't know the current makeup of the board, but at the time I dealt with this, there was a member on the board who was actually a lessee -- is that the right word? -- within the facility.
Mr McLean: On a point of privilege, Madam Chair: Are we going to get into the issues of each report, or are we going to do what we agreed to do at the start of the meeting: have them referred and come back and discuss them? If we're going to discuss them now, I want to be part of it, but if we're going to let Mr Mahoney go on with his concern, I have other concerns too, and we will do that. Or are we going to do what we agreed to start with, go on to the next one and deal with it?
The Chair: I think what's happened is that Mr Mahoney had to leave the room because of his own schedule, and that happens to all of us when we're in committee. He had to leave the room and he didn't realize there was some reference to this in here. He has flagged it for the committee.
Steve, you will be taking this back to your caucus. Mr Waters has agreed that maybe there should be some inquiry of the ministry about that particular point you've raised. If the committee wishes that to happen, if you give direction to the Chair, we will do that.
The purpose is really that the researchers are taking us through the reports now. We'll take them away to our caucuses, and then you will come back to discuss them at the next meeting, which is April 13. If, on this particular aspect of this report, you do want --
Mr Waters: I believe we need further information to deal with this particular issue. Therefore, I recommend that through you, Madam Chair, a letter be sent requesting further information from the ministry and maybe from the board so we have something to deal with here. I have one or two lines, and I can't make a decision on that.
As I invite Mr Yeager to come forward to talk about the report on the Workers' Compensation Board, I want to explain to the members of the committee, if I might, that you've been handed a letter from the Ontario Human Rights Commission. I brought sufficient copies with me at the beginning of the meeting, but the name of the party hadn't been whited out, and I felt, because of confidentiality, that if I were going to circulate this letter I wanted to remove the client's name, for obvious reasons.
I would like the committee to read this letter when you're reviewing the report. The incredible ambiguity of this letter perhaps further reinforces something you might want to say in the report. I realize I can do this through my caucus, but as the Chair of the committee, in fairness, I wanted to share it with everybody. In this particular case, this individual has now been pursuing his case since 1988.
Do you remember that when the commission was before us, they talked about this new office of reconsideration? The letter before said, "Yes, we have a new office of reconsideration, but we don't yet know the date it's going to be implemented." Now we have this letter asking this man for more patience and understanding, and it's been since 1988.
In my 20 years in politics, I haven't read anything with quite the wording this letter has, and I wanted to share it with you for that reason. What you do with it is up to you, but I just thought it was a pretty interesting letter.
Mr Lewis Yeager: Thank you, Madam Chairman. If you all have your copy of the Workers' Compensation Board draft report in front of you, if you turn to the table of contents you'll see that the first half of the report largely draws on the briefing paper that was prepared by Rob Nishman before the first set of hearings. I've gone through it and taken out some of the less directly applicable parts on the appeals tribunal and things like that, tried to shorten it and clean it up a bit. It's a little longer than I would have written myself, but it's all factual information that has been reviewed by the committee and by the ministry, so it provides good background for anybody who might read this report.
Other than the introductory page, the only change that's significant relates to a section on benefits that I've added. If you'll turn to page 13, there's a brief section just describing the overview of the benefit system. I've added two tables, on pages 14 and 15, that are from the Workers' Compensation Board, which summarize, on table 1, the workers' compensation benefits and, on table 2, on page 15, the survivor benefits as currently in place. I thought it was sort of a hole in the report not to have that type of information available at all.
The main part of the report, derived from your earlier discussions, begins on page 18 in the "Discussion and Recommendations" section. The information is presented basically in the same order as we discussed it in the previous committee meeting, and this was largely determined by Ms Murdock's presentation and notes which the committee adopted in terms of discussing these matters sequentially. I've added one or two small sections in that seemed to stick out and I've combined a couple of others, but basically the information derives from the notes provided to me by Ms Murdock and from the Hansards of the discussions that took place.
Mr McLean made a series of specific recommendations and Mr Curling and Mr Bradley also added several recommendations and discussions throughout the Hansard. So this section basically wrote itself and all of the recommendations were suggested by committee members. I didn't have to really add anything at this point. When I have a choice between writing something the long way and the short way, I usually choose the short way, so there's plenty of leeway to add further discussion in at any point you feel is appropriate.
I'll begin just by going through page by page what is here in a fairly overview manner. The first section relates to a memorandum of understanding and I've combined that with the general discussion of board accountability, which was the second topic that you discussed at the last meeting, into one section which begins on page 18.
With respect to the memorandum of understanding, the Provincial Auditor recommended that there should be a new one, and there was some discussion on it. But basically the first recommendation states: "The Minister of Labour should negotiate a new memorandum of understanding...with respect to delineating the powers of the board and providing an accountability framework for decision-making."
There was a lot of discussion about accountability at the WCB throughout the hearings and throughout the report-writing session that we had, and some members felt that more accountability by the board would improve governance and control.
There was considerable discussion about the practice of making political appointments to senior management positions at the board and that the board's management team might be strengthened by introducing executives from the insurance industry to perform these types of roles. Also, there seems to be some consensus building that if the board is moving towards more financial accountability, we have to look at whether we want a political person in that type of a position, regardless of how able he or she might be.
I think Mr Bradley made the point that, while it's a difficult question to eliminate anybody who has ever served in public office from these types of positions, a number of members thought that it was worth noting how important these positions are now in determining the position in which the board is going.
That led up to recommendations 2 and 3, number 2 being, "The Minister of Labour should end the practice of appointing former politicians to senior executive positions at the Workers' Compensation Board," and number 3, "The Minister of Labour should hire a qualified insurance executive to chair the Workers' Compensation Board and supplement the executive with an entirely new management team, also recruited from the private sector." I believe that's Mr McLean's recommendation.
The committee members in general were of the opinion that the WCB should determine the cost of any new policies that it's putting forward for implementation to address concerns that had been raised about a lack of accountability and to ensure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.
"4. All new WCB initiatives in policy development and program delivery should undergo rigorous scrutiny to ensure clear objectives and built-in controls prior to implementation." That emphasizes the planning stage.
"5. The Workers' Compensation Board should enshrine the principle of value for money into the development and delivery of all programs." That introduces that concept clearly and was, I think, an auditor's recommendation.
"6. The Workers' Compensation Board should institutionalize the idea of good spending by establishing management responsibility for reporting performance, plans and budget and by conducting regular reviews to ensure adherence to stated objectives."
So 4 to 6 go from the planning to the operational to the review function within the board. I think these three recommendations came from different parties, but they do fit together nicely as a continuum from the planning right through to the actual in-house examination of performance.
The next major section relates to fraud allegations. The committee heard quite a bit of information about the types of frauds that have been occurring. There were various estimates of the magnitude of these types of frauds. The emphasis is on the types of frauds that are occurring, and these include medical suppliers, board employees, tax avoidance by employers and workers making false claims. These are the four basic areas that the board has been putting emphasis on.
Mr King provided a summary of what the board has been doing recently in terms of setting up a method of reducing frauds. Basically, he says that the compensation board now aggressively seeks to prosecute all cases of fraud and recover what has been lost.
The committee emphasized in the Hansard that it feels it is important at this time to send a strong message that fraud in any form will not be tolerated by the board or by the Ministry of Labour. Recommendations number 7 and number 8, on page 20, are intended to address that:
"7. The Workers' Compensation Board should immediately find ways to tighten controls on access to WCB systems" and "8. The board should conduct necessary research to identify business areas highly vulnerable to fraud and ensure that close monitoring of these areas and needed anti-fraud controls are implemented in a timely manner."
The next area that the committee addressed was their internal financial management. This was questioning internal controls within the Workers' Compensation Board that had not kept pace with technological changes in the workforce. There were a number of comments that the actual presence of fraud in the system points to certain weaknesses in the board's internal controls.
There was considerable discussion by the committee about the controllership function that needs to be put into place to strengthen the efforts of the board to provide efficient and cost-effective service delivery. This might relate to authority and approval limits that need to be implemented; operation and financial compliance-related information has to be kept; in summary, members felt that the controllership function must ensure a proactive approach to remedy these types of weaknesses and encourage fast corrective action.
"9. The Workers' Compensation Board should develop an internal financial management or controllership function to provide its employees with clear roles and responsibilities and assist managers to minimize waste and prevent fraud" and, under internal financial management, "10. The board should implement a package of administrative reform measures including value-for-money auditing and internal spending controls."
The next section relates to strategic planning at the Workers' Compensation Board, and Mr King outlined the strategic planning exercise that has been taking place and is now taking place at the ministry. The first paragraph largely discusses that process as described by Mr King and the eight issues which they were breaking down and looking at more specifically.
The committee members felt that it was important that a strategic plan be developed and implemented to ensure the viability of the WCB's service to its clients. As well, the committee expects the board to keep it up to date on its planning process, what the process is and how the board's progress in implementing these stated plans is occurring.
On page 22, there are two recommendations. The first is number 11, "The Workers' Compensation Board should provide the committee with its strategic plan as soon as it has been completed." You might want to extend that to revisions to the plan later on. Number 12 asks that, "The board should provide this committee with an annual written report of its progress in succeeding with these objectives." Basically, the committee is asking for both the plans that the board produces and discussion of the success of the plan's implementation on an annual basis.
The next section discusses vocational rehabilitation and return to work. I think everybody emphasized the importance of ensuring a speedy return to work for those who suffer injuries in the workplace. There are serious social costs of people not working and that places a financial burden on the system as well. Mr King mentioned that the first chief vocational rehabilitation officer the board has ever had was appointed in the summer of 1993, just before our hearings took place.
Coming out of this emphasis on vocational rehabilitation is recommendation 13: "The Workers' Compensation Board should emphasize measures in its planning process which will promote vocational rehabilitation and foster an early return to work." That's rather a general recommendation. You may have suggestions for making that more specific.
The next section relates to corporate culture. Some members observed that the WCB's planning efforts now had employees involved in the decision-making process and that an ongoing commitment to this type of process was desirable. So recommendation 14 is, "The Workers' Compensation Board should continue to provide training to its employees and involve them in the decision-making process." That section may in fact fit better up above, after the planning process section.
Page 23 introduces the concept of Simcoe Place. This had extensive discussion of course by the committee, both here and in other committees, regarding many issues associated with the board's decision to become involved in the construction and ownership of its new headquarters, which will be known as Simcoe Place.
The committee reviewed the Provincial Auditor's comments on Simcoe Place in a special report that went to the standing committee on public accounts, along with the board's response to those observations.
Mr Di Santo and Mr King provided the committee with their views on the background of all these decisions and on the observations made by the Provincial Auditor, and of course answered many of your questions regarding almost every aspect of Simcoe Place's history.
Following those public hearings, though, some committee members continued to have substantial concerns about Simcoe Place, although they recognized that at this point final decisions had been made and the project would proceed regardless.
"The Provincial Auditor, in his report to the standing committee on public accounts, recommended that the WCB should report back to that committee in 1996 with detailed information on all costs associated with the relocation to Simcoe Place."
Specifically, "The standing committee on public accounts approved the following motion on 22 July 1993: `That the standing committee on public accounts return to the issue of the WCB's new headquarters after the WCB has reported back to this committee in 1996 as per the Provincial Auditor's recommendation in his report.'"
Such a report was described as including the final rental rates and annual costs, total staff that is relocated, space occupied, projected rate of return on investment based on actual building costs, moving costs, leasehold and furniture costs and any administrative savings that have been achieved by the relocation and consolidation of the head office, such as staff reductions.
The auditor also recommended that the board assess its long-term staffing requirements in light of savings possible from reduced claims, downsizing and automation and determine the effect this may have on space requirements.
Some of the members noted emphatically that such a financial review of Simcoe Place would have been more valuable before the decision to proceed had been made. Other members indicated that a thorough financial review in 1996 would still have usefulness.
This leads to recommendation 15 on page 24: "The Workers' Compensation Board should comply in full with the recommendations of the Provincial Auditor to the standing committee on public accounts which relate to the relocation to Simcoe Place and any associated cost savings." That was really the only recommendation that came out of our earlier discussion of Simcoe Place.
In the middle of page 24 a section on the financial position of the Workers' Compensation Board begins. Committee members expressed significant concern about the board's growing unfunded liability in an economic climate which has seen declining revenues for the board. There was a great deal of discussion related to the need for the WCB to develop a funding strategy which ensures the viability of an effective compensation strategy which protects injured workers while ensuring that employers remain competitive and viable in trying economic times. The board's vice-chair suggested that those sectors which have been hit the hardest by the recession -- and these include manufacturing, resources and construction -- make up about three quarters of the board's revenue base at present.
Some members suggested that rising premium rates are having a strong negative impact on existing businesses and are making Ontario less attractive for new business, investment and jobs. They attributed the debt, the cost and the shortcomings of workers' compensation to the fact that it has become increasingly regarded as an employer-funded social safety net rather than remaining true to its original concept as a workplace accident insurance plan. It was Mr McLean who suggested that the board has become a universal system to compensate everyone for almost anything.
So on page 25 there are two recommendations that relate to that aspect: the first, that "The Workers' Compensation Board should follow the lead of Manitoba and New Brunswick and change the 90% net benefit level to ensure claimants do not receive more in compensation than they would if they were on the job"; and recommendation 17, "The board should investigate some form of copayment by claimants to enhance accountability." Those, I believe, both came from Mr McLean.
There was additional discussion on many aspects of improving the board's funding strategy. Two other recommendations that came out of the Hansard are listed as number 18 and number 19 on page 25: that "The Workers' Compensation Board should develop a new funding strategy which addresses the viability of the system into the future"; and number 19, that "The board should conduct consultations with the workplace parties and provide a report to the Minister of Labour."
At the bottom of page 25 is a brief section on future coverage, which was mentioned several times. This might be fitted elsewhere into one of the larger sections, but it seemed to stand quite well on its own. The committee discussed the possible future extension of benefits to cover such conditions as workplace stress. Some members noted that employers and many members of the public are concerned that the board is going to continue to expand its coverage to areas where there is a lot of controversy, at great cost to the system. Some members were unsure if the WCB can totally close the door on new areas of coverage but felt that a consensus is needed in the province before coverage is expanded at this time.
Two recommendations came out of your earlier discussions and these are listed on page 26. Recommendation number 20 is that the Workers' Compensation Board should commission an impartial evaluation of what services are provided and what services might be covered in the future, and 21, that the board should declare a moratorium on all new types of entitlements, such as stress compensation, pending a long-term plan to manage the board's unfunded liability.
Ms Harrington: A point of clarification: On page 20, the first recommendation says the WCB "should immediately find ways to tighten controls on access to WCB systems." It is not clear what you mean. I think we would all agree that workers need a decision in an efficient manner. It doesn't appear that's what you're saying.
Mr Yeager: This recommendation came from Ms Murdock's notes and I believe relates to more their computer systems and process systems that might be subject to access by somebody with fraudulent intent, as opposed to benefits being received by people or false claims and that type of thing. I was a little unclear myself. That comes word for word from the notes, and I'd be happy to clarify that.
Ms Harrington: Also, what that made me think of, that I would like to flag -- I'm not sure if it's actually discussed in here -- was the first decision of people who are going through this process is, I don't think, efficiently done because there are so many appeals. I don't think we got into that, did we, Sharon? I'm not sure whether we should be mentioning it.
Ms Murdock: If I might, just for clarification: It was discussed in another one of the standing committees in terms of the actual operations of the board, but in this committee it was discussed on a different level in terms of finance and the building and that kind of thing.
Ms Harrington: I just wish to say that maybe there should be a statement in here that we believe that claimants should have a swift and efficient decision-making process. Obviously that's a mandate of an organization.
The Chair: I think what you should do is bring that back to the meeting on the 13th because I think the purpose of going through the report now is if you have questions. Margaret, clearly yours was a question of clarification but I think the next step about what you'd like it to say would be part of the next meeting.
Ms Jenny Carter (Peterborough): I actually had the same question that Mrs Harrington raised about recommendation 7, but just to enlarge on that, under fraud allegations, it does say that there are problems with board employees, suppliers and physiotherapy providers and I wondered whether this includes all those aspects.
Mr Yeager: I think when it refers to systems, it's not referring to those types of frauds. It's speaking to internal manipulations within the board's processes. These are the four types of frauds listed on the bottom of page 19, but in a larger sense, the board is currently focusing its attention on its strategy to reduce fraud. One is on board employees and the systems I suppose would be most vulnerable to internal employees, but suppliers may be working the system in a larger sense.
Tax avoidance by employers is another area where the system, in a larger sense, is affected, and the same with false claims. So these people are working the system as opposed to working the WCB systems internally, as certain employees of the board might have the opportunity to do.
So I think that we need improved wording for recommendation 7 to make it clear that it is talking about improving security on internal data banks and processes that might be subject to internal manipulation. At least, that was how I interpreted it, but that doesn't mean what people refer to as the WCB system being manipulated by any of these other things. Perhaps I can change the wording to not use the word "system" twice. It becomes confusing.
Mr Waters: Further to some of the members, if they refer to, I think, it's the resource development committee hearings that Ms Murdock was referring to, and we did that in 1991-92 and 1993 because we had said, "Do these things and come back and report," and dragged the WCB back a year or a year and a half after. If they looked at that, there would be a lot of recommendations in there about how the WCB deals directly with their client base because that was what report was based on. It was just strictly the client base and some inefficiencies there and recommendations. So it's out there. There's a lot of information and already reports over the last three years.
Mr George Mammoliti (Yorkview): I want to apologize for not knowing the report, I guess, as others do, and want to ask a question at this time in terms of the worker adviser office and whether or not this report touches on the worker adviser office, and if it doesn't, whether this committee has ever done that in the past.
Mr Yeager: The report does not touch on that office, largely because it didn't come up in the earlier discussion. As with any other aspect related to it, the report can touch on it if the committee wishes to, and perhaps you could bring some of your concerns back to us the next time.
Mr Mammoliti: This is not what I was asking. It's not my intent at this point. I just wanted to get some information perhaps to dig into the books if this committee has ever talked about the office. If we haven't, well then obviously, there's no need to pursue it.
Ms Murdock: Sorry, it's just that it's been my life for three years here, and I've been at every one of the committees where we have, during the life of this government, handled the WCB. The resources development committee has a report from that standing committee on OWA and on the very issue that Mrs Harrington mentioned, so that has already been reviewed by another committee.
The Chair: In fairness, it doesn't preclude you from addressing that area in this report, but obviously there's a tremendous resource document in the resource development committee's report, and you could find it in the library.
Mr Mahoney: Just further on that particular issue, it seems to me that this committee would perhaps do well to take a look at the report that's being referred to before finalizing this report, because the WCAT, the worker adviser and the employer adviser, as well as the health and safety agency, rely on the WCB for their funding, so there's a very direct relationship. The Industrial Disease Standards Panel as well.
All of these things impact in the sense that they cost the WCB a substantial amount of money, so maybe at the very least the report should -- because the PLMAC report recommends a different relationship with those bodies, and I think that's going to be quite controversial as to whether or not they are indeed independent.
Mr Mahoney: They are actually. I've reviewed it. That's their recommendation, that WCAT actually sit on the board. I think that's a point that should be discussed, whether it's this committee or whatever, because if an appeals tribunal is actually a member of the board that the appeal is going to be going through, I think there are a lot of concerns there.
Ms Murdock: I have a chart from the PLMAC, the management side, and there would be an ongoing committee relationship with the OWA, the OEA, the IDSP and the CEO. Then there would be WCAT, the health and safety agency, and the OWCI contact would be on that committee, but not reporting to the CEO.
Mr Mahoney: I don't know if you want to review that particular committee. That may be the subject of another operation, but I think the relationship of those agencies to the WCB should be part of this report, at least to acknowledge it in the report and the amount of money it takes to run those agencies.
The Chair: That's up to you because you're part of the committee that's drafting the report. It's up to the committee what the report says. The committee actually isn't an agency, board or commission, so we couldn't review the committee that you're talking about.
Mr McLean: I wonder if we could have a copy of that report. It's the social development committee that did it. I would like our researcher to be able to have it and to perhaps bring one or two suggestions to us. I think it's important that it has been raised because it should be part of our overall report. I feel bad that we missed out on dealing with that in any depth at all.
Ms Murdock: Excuse me, Madam Chair, but when we were last sitting, when we had the members from the WCB here, these reports were mentioned because I specifically said, in very dulcet tones I might say, that this is the third committee that has reviewed the Workers' Compensation Board, and for the third time I have been substituted in on a committee that was dealing with WCB matters once again. So that report has been mentioned a number of times. It is not like it has suddenly arisen as a new item here.
The Chair: -- and every member does receive that report in their offices. I think if the committee would like to have copies of it, we can do that, or else you can review your own copies. What direction do you want?