SPECIAL REPORT, PROVINCIAL AUDITOR MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Wednesday 28 February 2001
Special Report, Provincial Auditor: chapter 4(3.10), science and information resources division
Ministry of Natural Resources
Mr John Burke, deputy minister
Mr Geoff Munro, director, applied research and development branch
Mr Des McKee, acting assistant deputy minister,
science and information resources division
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Chair / Président
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands / Kingston et les îles L)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr John C. Cleary (Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh L)
Mr John C. Cleary (Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh L)
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands / Kingston et les îles L)
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke North / -Nord PC)
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt ND)
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls PC)
Mrs Julia Munro (York North / -Nord PC)
Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre / -Centre PC)
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre / -Centre L)
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan L)
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming-Cochrane L)
Mr Erik Peters, Provincial Auditor
Clerk / Greffière
Ms Tonia Grannum
Staff / Personnel
Mr Ray McLellan, research officer,
Research and Information Services
The committee met at 1032 in room 151.
SPECIAL REPORT, PROVINCIAL AUDITOR MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Consideration of chapter 4(3.10), science and information resources division.
The Chair (Mr John Gerretsen): Good morning, everyone. I'd like to call the committee to order. This is the continuation of the standing committee on public accounts. We are dealing with chapter 4(3.10) of the 2000 special report, Provincial Auditor, dealing with the science and information resources division.
Good morning to all of you. We look forward to your presentation of about 15 to 20 minutes. Afterwards, there will be questions from members of the various caucuses. If you'd like to introduce yourself, Deputy, and the members of your delegation, you can proceed.
Mr John Burke: Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. Good morning. My name is John Burke. I am the deputy minister of the Ministry of Natural Resources. Here with me this morning are three colleagues. To my immediate left is Des McKee, the acting assistant deputy minister of the science and information resources branch. Next to him is Geoff Munro, who is director of the applied research and development branch. Frank Kennedy, who is to my right, is the acting director of the science and information branch.
I'm here today to discuss some of the Provincial Auditor's recommendations and comment and talk about what we're doing to address them. Let me begin by saying that we welcome the comments from the Provincial Auditor. In some cases it provided us with very useful direction on how to improve our processes and products and meet our mandate of resource sustainability. In other cases it simply confirmed and gave us direction that was already being undertaken within the ministry itself.
I'd like to begin by giving you an overview of what we've achieved, and then I'll address the specific recommendations and highlights that we have done in these particular areas.
One of the four common business practices that MNR has put in place to support our vision of sustainable development and our mission of ecological sustainability is that of science. We consider it part and parcel of doing business within MNR. We're taking a strategic approach to the science business area and have developed a full life cycle project performance management system. The system is the centrepiece of an integrated science strategy that both meets the intent of the auditor's recommendations and provides the high-quality science and information we need to make sound natural science management decisions. The strategy has been tested and is now being implemented for the largest science portfolio within MNR, which is forest science. I brought copies of A Forest Science Strategy for an Adaptive Organization, which we will leave for committee members. This is a business-oriented strategy that focuses on improving the alignment of science activity with the needs of MNR's forest management program.
I'd like to highlight two of the actions identified in this strategy document as they relate specifically to some of the recommendations in the auditor's report. The first is around priority setting, and the second is around program and project management itself.
The performance management system I mentioned earlier is supported by a software tool called ProGrid. In the scientific community it's perhaps the most widely used software tool. This software is used by many organizations in Canada. We have adapted it to suit natural resources science and to fit our specific performance management needs. The system will support decisions around project selection, annual project review, and project evaluation after it's been completed. The decision support system is helping us to make consistent and transparent science-based decisions.
The second action item I'd like to highlight today is that we've divided our forest science into five theme areas that allow us to include a more balanced representation of clients and science providers in the review and priority-setting process. Managers from the forests division, field services division and science and information division provide co-leadership under each of these theme areas. Specifically, these areas are forest management practices; forest resource and land use planning analysis; policy standards and guidelines; inventory monitoring, assessment and resource allocation; and resource management issues.
The co-leaders are developing a strategic plan that identifies priorities for research and technology transfer problems and questions. They will review priorities and problems, pre-screen project proposals, participate in an annual review of projects, and help select projects for the coming year. This will ensure that client needs are understood and addressed, and it keeps the whole science agenda working closely with the business areas. We've just begun to expand this management approach to other science activities at MNR and expect to have a fully functional performance management system for all of our major science activities in the near future. We are currently working to apply this in the fish and wildlife area, and you will see over the next 12 months us moving in a very similar fashion.
I'd now like to talk about what steps MNR has taken to address the Provincial Auditor's specific recommendations.
Around the area of setting directions and science priorities, the performance management system I mentioned earlier will ensure the development and annual review of science priorities measured against an established set of criteria. This work is done with active participation from the business area that requires the science products and services for their programs and has policy development responsibilities. So all of our key areas are being brought together for the purpose of setting directions and priorities.
Under project selection, research monitoring and reporting, our performance management system includes a full project life cycle approach. This means that project selection, annual evaluation and final review are all done in response to established criteria. The measurement criteria are also developed in ongoing collaboration, again, with the business area, that section of the ministry dealing with it.
In terms of research funding, while funding is still available only on an annual basis through the regular budgetary process, our performance management system will accommodate multi-year science projects in the priority-setting and project-tracking functions. We can review the status of the multi-year projects annually, as well as their fluctuating budgetary requirements, alongside any new project proposal we may consider from time to time. In addition, the ministry has entered into a number of science-based partnership arrangements that also have multi-year considerations. These arrangements are also reviewed each year as part of the performance management system.
In terms of project monitoring for information and information technology projects, the ministry has also improved its efforts through regular reporting processes, quarterly financial reporting, a project status review of all approved projects in October of each year, and regular project-specific status reviews with all of our program areas. The ministry has evaluated its needs for project management software and in fact has issued an RFP for that particular kind of software to meet our needs. We will be making a decision within the next few weeks. Staff will be training on the software and the project management guidelines as projects are initiated in the new fiscal year.
I'd like to conclude my remarks today by assuring you that MNR's science capability remains vital to making sound resource management decisions and in meeting our objective of sustainable development. We've instituted project management processes that will ensure accountability, relevance and value for money for our science and information investments. We will continue to sustain a provincial scientific capacity and capability to address the specific issues we face in delivering our resource management and protection mandate.
On that note, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity for those few words and turn it back to you, Mr Chairman.
The Chair: We'll start our round of questioning now with the official opposition. We'll have 20-minute rounds.
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming-Cochrane): Thank you, Deputy, for your update on this. I know previously we referred to the 1996 Strategic Plan for Science and Technology. My understanding from the auditor today is that that basically is looked upon by the ministry as an historic document, and you've moved on now to the new forest science strategy.
I was just wondering how the new program is different from the old. Are there aspects of it that you've had to drop, and why have you had to do that? I'd just be interested to know what the difference is and why you felt-maybe because it's four years old-you had to change it. How did that evolve and what was the process?
Mr Burke: On some of these questions that relate to history or science in particular, I would like to be able to refer this question to some of my colleagues who are sitting here.
The Chair: Sure. If you'd like to identify yourself, please.
Mr Geoff Munro: Good morning. My name is Geoff Munro. I'm the director of the applied research and development branch.
The report you speak to, Mr Ramsay, was the basis upon which the new system was built. It provided guidance and direction. There's nothing we've specifically dropped, but what it did not do was provide us a set of concrete measures against which we could take an annual process and develop it into something that made it transparent to both the business areas and anyone else who wants to observe what's going on in terms of those decisions being made.
So in answer to your question, nothing was dropped. The intent of that report has been fulfilled. Some terminology has changed as we've developed the new system. For instance, there's a reference in the old one to "science team." "Science team," we found, was too general in its scope, and you heard the deputy speak to a number of specific theme areas. We have taken the science team and effectively broken it into theme areas so we could drive down to the specific needs of that thematic area in terms of its science requirements. So that kind of shift has taken place, where we've driven it into a more structured process with specific detail at a lower level than that earlier document provides. But the intent of that document has been maintained and in fact was used as the basis for the development of the document that the deputy spoke to.
Mr Ramsay: I'd also be wondering if the change was maybe implemented, and I'm just asking this-if you have the resources to carry out this work, and did you have to change the strategy to accommodate the restructuring of the ministry because of the manpower cuts over the last few years? Has that impacted on this area and the strategy change between the two documents?
Mr Munro: As I said, the strategy hasn't changed specifically. The intent of that earlier strategy has been maintained.
In terms of the resources, the question around resources was always one of how much is enough, and what we've done is we have entered into some significant partnerships. The deputy, again, made reference to that. I guess the answer is yes, we're fulfilling the obligations as they are established by the strategies.
Mr Ramsay: I noted that, and I thought that was interesting. Going into partnerships seems to be a trend today. With whom would some of these partnerships be and how do these partnerships work?
Mr Munro: As you may be familiar with, the Ontario Forest Accord, as part of Ontario's Living Legacy, calls specifically for science partnerships. It was one of the areas that partners to the ministry at the level of the accord wanted to become involved in. We have a range of them. In the forest example we have in front of you today, they include a number of the members of the forest industry and a number of the academic institutions that are involved in the research side of forest science.
We have partnerships with the Canadian Forest Service, who also have that as part of their mandate. We even have a number of what I guess you'd class as ENGOs, environmental non-governmental organizations, that have chosen to work with us to try and enhance this overall mandate of improving our knowledge around forest science.
Mr Ramsay: Without getting into any specific details on any particular one, what is the extent of the partnership? Do I take it these are financial arrangements and collaborative studies? If you could give me maybe a couple of examples of what our share, as MNR, in a certain partnership project is and how it might work.
Mr Munro: As you can imagine, each institution has its own structure of what it can and cannot do in terms of its own mandate. What we look for are the areas of common interest, the areas where the mandates overlap and where there is interest in collaboration.
For those of you who have had the opportunity to go to Sault Ste Marie, you may know that the Ontario Forest Research Institute is right across the parking lot from the Great Lakes Forestry Centre, which is the Canadian Forest Service Ontario-based regional laboratory. So we have areas where we will only put the infrastructure for our project on the ground once, work out the plot network, for example, rather than have them to do it on one piece of ground and us on another. Therefore, we both reduce our costs.
The scientific interest may be slightly different, mandates being collaborative but different on occasion, but we will go to the same site and have the scientists or technicians doing the measurements do them once and provide the information back to both the Ontario lab and the federal lab. They can do their work and we can do ours. When results can be compared and it's appropriate to do so from a scientific regime, then we do. So there is that kind of collaborative arrangement. It's two budgets, federal and provincial, operating in collaboration, both spending less than they otherwise would be required to do. Effectively, that's the model.
Where we partner with industry, it's often a case where they too will put people and resources on the ground to implement something that needs to be implemented in response to a scientific structure that we will set using our research scientists to do that. So it's collaborative in that way.
Mr Ramsay: I'm fine for now. We could rotate. I'll reserve the time if you want.
The Chair: If you want to do it that way, that's fine, if you want to have shorter rotations. Ms Martel.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): Let me start from there. Can you give us specific examples of projects that you're working on? I'd be interested, if you want to give me one with the feds and one with industry and then tell me what the monetary value is in terms of MNR's contribution and then industry's or the federal government's contribution. I'm hearing what you're saying, but can you give the committee some concrete examples of what that means?
Mr Munro: OK. Let me pick on one that involves all of the above. We have a project in place called the forest research partnership. It's a collaborative arrangement between Tembec, a forest company in the northeast part of this province, the Canadian Forest Service, the Canadian Ecology Centre, which operates out of one of the provincial parks near Mattawa, and ourselves. It is focused on intensive forest management. It focuses on what tools and techniques we need to develop so that we can implement intensive forest management in this province in a sustainable fashion, working within the existing legislative and policy guidelines for forestry. All four partners are bringing something to the table. In all cases, it's either cash or in-kind equivalent, the three big partners being the industry, the Canadian Forest Service and ourselves. The Canadian Ecology Centre doesn't have the resources to be an equal player, so what they supply is the infrastructure of their facility and their technology transfer capability.
Amounts: I'm loath to give you specifics because I don't have them in front of me to give you exact figures. I can certainly make that specific report and the outline of the budget associated with it available to you.
Ms Martel: That was going to be my next question. Could you give us the breakdown between what would be the ministry's investment in a partnership arrangement, either with industry or the federal government or the ENGOs, and then what the ministry's contribution would be solely as a ministry to those research projects? I'd be interested in what portion now is cost-shared, I guess is the best way to use it, with another partner and what continues to be the ministry's sole obligation in terms of projects, either on fish and wildlife or on the forestry side.
Mr Munro: I'll have to bring that back for you.
Ms Martel: OK. I'd like to ask you some questions about budgets. That's where I'd like to start. Can you tell the committee what the budget is, first, for the division for this year?
Mr Des McKee: My name is Des McKee; I'm the acting ADM of the science and information resources division. The problem we have with coming up with that fixed number is that there is base funding in the division. There's also money transferred as part of core business funding into some of the projects as well. I don't have the actual numbers in front of me, but I think it's in the order of about $50 million to $60 million.
Ms Martel: Can I back up? Maybe this will help. The auditor identified, in his 1998 report, that the division had about $63.5 million in expenditures and 500 staff. In the same fiscal year, $27 million was spent on 350 science projects, both fish and wildlife and forest management. I would be interested in receiving from the ministry corresponding numbers for three fiscal years-what those numbers were both for the division for 1998-99, 1999-2000, and then this year, 2000-01. I would like to know what the staffing levels are for those three fiscal years, and finally, what the expenditure was on the science projects. Like I said, in 1997-98 the value the auditor identified was $27 million for 350 projects. I would like the corresponding amounts, both monetary value and the number of projects, for those three fiscal years.
Mr McKee: We can get that information for you.
Ms Martel: The reason I'd be interested is, you clearly understand, and so do I, the importance of the science projects to determine how your fish and wildlife and forest management programs are going to operate, and how we're going to ensure that resources are sustainable in the long term. The auditor, when he did his audit, identified a significant cut to the division's budget in the three years prior to his audit. I think that has probably had some significant impact on your ability to do these projects, because I'm not sure you have the money or the staff. I'd like to know what, if any, change has occurred in those numbers since the auditor did his 1998 report, because it wasn't identified in his 2000 report.
Could we have those this afternoon? Is that a possibility?
Mr Burke: We will try our best.
Ms Martel: My next question, then, is-and there may be no relationship at all, but this is what I want to clarify-how is the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Board and the money that it has from fees and licences, royalties, etc related, if at all, to your division? I specifically mean related in terms of, do you vet the projects that they would propose and is their budget considered to be part of your budget? So for example, in 1997-98-I think they were probably just getting started, so maybe that's not a good year, but is any of the $27 million that was 1997-98 actually money from fish and wildlife? Maybe there's no relationship at all, but I'd like that clarified.
Mr Munro: The response to your question is that the numbers we give you this afternoon or tomorrow or as quickly as we can get them for you can include the amount of the $27-million equivalent that comes from the SPA, the special purpose account that you're referring to. But the allocation of projects is done through the scientific rigour that I described. Although the actual system hasn't been applied to fish and wildlife yet, as you heard the deputy say, that same sort of approach is still used in terms of assessing the scientific need for study. So the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Board does not sit in judgment over what project will or won't go ahead, although there is an allocation coming out of the special purpose account that makes up part of the science portfolio in support of the fish and wildlife activity.
Ms Martel: Sorry, let me back up. Let me deal with the special purpose account first. It was established in 1996 or 1997?
Mr Munro: You're close.
Ms Martel: I don't know the numbers, but let's say they had $20 million in 1996-97. Are you saying to me, then, that the $20 million they had would have been part of the $27 million overall that was spent by the division on projects that year?
Mr Munro: On science projects; the answer is yes.
Ms Martel: So is it fair to say that the total amount of money that is in the special purpose account appears against the ministry line item for budget for science and research projects? Or is the money they have the only money you have?
Mr Munro: Oh, no. No, no, no. That's why I say when I give you the numbers this afternoon or tomorrow I can identify the portion. Science is funded through both the forest program and the fish and wildlife program, and a subset of the fish and wildlife program includes money from the special purpose account.
Ms Martel: Both branches, OK. It would be helpful to me if you could do that breakdown as well, and could you give me the numbers over the three fiscal years that I've identified and their projects, the number of projects that they did over the three years? Is that a fair request? I'm assuming that there are certain projects that are tagged as theirs, or do you-
Mr Munro: No.
Ms Martel: OK.
Mr Munro: No. I was going to say, the last part of your question may be difficult, because what happens is there is an allocation from the fish and wildlife program area to science and it is looked at in terms of the fish and wildlife needs, in terms of their program needs, and then is funded through either the base budget or the SPA. I can give you the math quite easily and I can do that for each of the fiscal years you've asked for. What I can't do as easily is ferret out the specifics of a given piece of science work that was funded that way.
Ms Martel: Don't do that, then. If you can do the first.
Mr Munro: We can give you the math you are requesting, yes.
Ms Martel: Just so I'm clear: you've got your advisory committee. It's a multi-stakeholder group. I'm not clear about the process that develops for them to make decisions about projects. Are they assigned projects to consider from the branch or do they generate their own that are then checked by the science branch?
Mr Munro: They function in an advisory role. So the staff of the branch, working in collaboration with the people in our division-you recognize the branch is in a natural resource management division-
Ms Martel: When you say "branch" are you meaning fish and wildlife or forest management?
Mr Munro: Sorry, fish and wildlife branch. I should have been clear. The fish and wildlife branch is in a different division, as is the forest group. The science is functionally a service in support of their policy and program agenda, so we work with them in terms of their policy and program agenda and the science needs to it. They then discuss with the advisory board their full program-not just the science piece; the science piece is included of course-that they're planning to spend their allocations on. The science is part of the overall program.
Ms Martel: They would have expenditures and priorities that are outside of the division and specific to the fish and wildlife branch, and you wouldn't deal with all of those priorities.
Mr Munro: Absolutely, and the field.
Ms Martel: Let me ask you about what you're describing as the forest science strategy. If I heard your answer to Mr Ramsay correctly, it is that there really isn't a difference; the 1996 strategy provided guidance but, for lack of a better term, the on-the-ground details of how it really operates are now available in this strategy. Am I correct?
Mr Munro: That's correct.
Ms Martel: How does that relate to what you want to do with respect to fish and wildlife? Is this document and this strategy generic enough that you would just apply it then to the fish and wildlife branch and their priorities? Because I got the impression that this was primarily focused on priorities coming out of the forest industry, which wouldn't deal with your priorities, concerns or responsibilities with respect to fish and wildlife.
Mr Munro: The process would be the same and was designed generically to answer the questions of how priorities are set, of how and when you review projects, how you measure if they are meeting the milestones that were projected in the project design in the first place. Did they accomplish the intended purpose of the project etc? So the process will be the same.
Where it will change, or may change, is in the criteria used to measure projects. A number of the criteria in the forest strategy document you have before you are quite generic and there's a term in there called the language ladder, which is the measuring device associated with each of the criteria. Most of those will fit, but as we did with the forest program, we will work with the business area to make sure that those criteria do align correctly with the business area, in this case fish and wildlife, policy program needs. Some adjustment may be required at that level so that we measure the fish and wildlife projects appropriate to their needs.
Ms Martel: Is the document for fish and wildlife, that strategy, developed yet?
Mr Munro: No, and I'm not sure we will develop a full-blown one, because so much of this, for all it was done for the forest system, is the strategic nature of a science strategy and can be directly applied. What we'll do is adapt the pieces that are necessary, as I've described, and document them, so there'll be, more likely, an ancillary document to this one rather than a full-blown additional strategy, because that would be repetitious.
Ms Martel: Tell me, you implemented this strategy and its protocol model for decisions on projects for the fiscal year 2000-01?
Mr Munro: It was tested in that year, both beta-tested, where we just took a small number of projects, and then operationally tested. The strategy was actually implemented after budgetary decisions had been made for the current fiscal year we're in, so it was back casting because the timing of budgetary processes and the development of the strategy were not in sync. So what we've done is we've measured the success of that and used it to drive the process we're in the middle of at this very time for next fiscal year.
Ms Martel: So you anticipate it'll be fully in place, you'll be making all of your decisions and evaluations by 2001-02?
Mr Munro: That's correct.
Ms Martel: For the fish and wildlife portion now, are you going to be testing it this fiscal year?
Mr Munro: That's correct.
Ms Martel: With full implementation in 2002-03.
Mr Munro: Correct.
Ms Martel: Given that timeline, let me ask you this question, because the auditor when he reviewed this and made the comments that he did-in terms of the ministry's reply, the ministry's reply was that they had been well aware of these concerns and in fact were in the process of implementing changes already, in response to the auditor's recommendations. That was in April 1998. Those were the ministry's responses. It will be 2002-03 before the fish and wildlife portion of this finally gets implemented in the way that I think the auditor wanted it to be identified.
What has taken so long for these processes to be put in place? I'm also bearing in mind that you've told this committee that there isn't a significant change from the year 1996 strategic plan to this document. But we've gone from identification of a problem by the auditor in 1998, where the ministry said you were already implementing changes, to a position where you won't have full implementation for at least another two full fiscal years.
Mr Munro: The simple answer is that the changes we were making in 1998 and 1999 were-how would I describe it?-item-specific. We were looking at the recommendations and saying, "Do we have a way of measuring a project in mid-year?" and we were starting to develop a response to that. It was in-let me get my years straight-1999-2000, prior to that. Going into 1999-2000, we recognized we needed a full-blown strategy. We could no longer go at these item by item. What we were doing was correcting things as we went, and we realized we were in effect tweaking all aspects of the science program. So we took a half-step back, took all those changes, integrated them during the 1999-2000 fiscal year and developed this full-blown strategy.
The performance management system we're talking about is one of 13 items you will see in the strategy itself. This is a full-blown science strategy for MNR. This goes well beyond the intent of the 1996 strategic direction. It satisfies those-as I said earlier, we used it as a base document and accepted its directions, but put a system in place rather than just say, as I did in my example, "We don't have anything to test a project at its mid-course, and we need one," and we went about fixing that. "We need a better way of linking with the business areas," so we went about fixing that. Those were one-time fixes we were doing, and we thought they were appropriate until we started to realize the scope of the changes being undertaken. We started to worry that we might fix A, which would hurt us in B. So we stood back and looked at a full-blown strategy for science in MNR, using forestry as the test case because of its being the largest portfolio. That has resulted in the document before you.
Ms Martel: You're confident, as you deal with the specifics on fish and wildlife and the needs from that program branch, that you're not going to run into similar problems?
Mr Munro: The answer is yes, I'm confident. The reason I'm confident is that we have taken this using forestry as a test case. It is not unique to forestry. As I said earlier, it is a science-based program that depends on the classical science checks of peer review and national and international collegial exchange with people who are involved in the area of expertise-all the things we have been doing in MNR for years-but does it in a structured way. So those generic pieces are quite applicable to fish and wildlife, and they can be applicable to science in any other area. As a matter of fact, this system has now been recognized worldwide. We were invited to IUFRO, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, to talk about what we've done with this. So it is a generic science strategy, and I am confident it will work for fish and wildlife and others, recognizing, as I said earlier, that there may be a need to speak to specific criteria adjustments to recognize the needs of that program area.
Ms Martel: Are you confident as well that you have the staff, the human resources in place to fully implement this strategy? Part of the problem the auditor identified with the 1996 strategy was that it was a great document but never implemented. We haven't seen full implementation of this yet. You've got a test. Through that testing, did you identify that you need more human resources to be sure it can be fully implemented?
Mr Munro: We're not fully there yet. Their capacity issue does come out, because you measure the amount of scientific capability you've got to deliver on the project needs. Recognizing that the list will always be longer than any size of organization can fulfill, we've entered into the partnership arrangement to help satisfy that, knowing full well we needed to do that. That's not unique to forests either; we're doing that across all our science disciplines.
Ms Martel: Just so I'm clear, though, it's safe to say-and I don't want to take you out of context-that at this point you can't be clear you would have, internally at MNR, in any event, the staffing to fully implement the strategy. You would have to rely on partnerships.
Mr Munro: The strategy itself is a process to establish the science that needs to be done. Yes, we can implement the strategy; I have full confidence. As a matter of fact, the way the strategy is designed, using Web-based technology, reduces the workload on individuals to chase money through NSERC or other granting agencies and whatnot to partner with MNR money, because it creates a structure within which the priorities of MNR for its science are clear. It's process-based, using Web-based technology etc. So I'm never worried about the strategy itself.
Ms Martel: It's the projects themselves.
Mr Munro: And, as I said, a list of science needs is always going to be far greater than any ministry's capability to deliver. We will always maintain the capability to deliver the core needs of our business areas, and we believe we'll be able to do that.
Ms Martel: What portion of the projects would be-maybe this is too hard to sort out, but if you've got a test in place, what portion of the projects right now would have been just for this fiscal year versus multi-year, where you would have to be allocating additional staff resources now to complete those projects? Can you make that judgment?
Mr Munro: It's hard to judge specifically. I'm loath to give you a number. It's fair to say that most science projects are longer than a single year.
Ms Martel: And it would be the same with staffing as in monetary value. For example, I take it you would have a small number of projects that could be completed in a single fiscal year; many other projects you're going to be tracking require a multi-year commitment as well.
Mr Munro: They do, and that's part of why we have in the system an annual review to make sure-
Ms Martel: You have the money.
Mr Munro: Not just to have money, but that the annual investment is still pertinent. If things have changed, if new knowledge becomes available and we no longer need to pursue that because one of our colleagues has answered the question, we're not going to continue to spend money on the project just because we started it. So we will review the portfolio of projects annually to ensure we're making the best strategic investment we can.
Ms Martel: At what point would you be able, through this process, to assess your human needs? Is the model complex enough that those types of things can be identified for you?
Mr Munro: Yes.
Ms Martel: For example, as you move to the full scale this year, because you're in that budgetary process right now, if you start to look at those projects and the human resources attached, that would probably change some of the decisions you'll be making, just based on whether you have the fiscal resources to get it off the ground and the human resources to make it happen.
Mr Munro: That's right. I classify this, and continue to classify it, as a decision support system. It doesn't make decisions for us; it supports the decision-making that's necessary. In that context, we will always have a portfolio of projects that is greater than the base budget of MNR or any other ministry, because there are always going to be additional questions for which we want to eventually get answers, hence the reason we entered the partnership arena.
Ms Martel: Would you be making revisions to the portfolio now, based on what you know about resources, both financial and human?
Mr Munro: We have to bring the two together, and that will happen in the month of March, prior to entering the next fiscal year: the needs from the program areas and the resources available to do it, both internal and external in our partnership arrangements, to see what kind of portfolio of projects we can undertake collectively.
Mrs Julia Munro (York North): I have a couple of questions that are really very general in nature, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to ask. One of the things I wonder whether you could clarify for me is the difference between MNR's responsibilities, particularly in the fish side of fish and wildlife, and the jurisdiction the federal government has in Fisheries and Oceans. Can you explain in layman's terms your responsibility as opposed to theirs?
Mr Munro: I should say at the outset that the actual responsibility within MNR for the establishment of fish and wildlife responsibilities-fisheries was your question-is not within the purview of this division. It belongs to the natural resources management division, and they carry responsibility for the legislation and the regulations. However, working as closely with it as we do, I think I can give you a reasonable layman's answer. In that context, I'd be happy to respond.
The simple split is that the main coast issues of this country, the Great Lakes and the major arteries generally tend to fall to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. When we get into the inland lakes and the watersheds feeding the Great Lakes, we have a role to play. As a result, we end up having a role to play on the Great Lakes as well. That's where the two come together. But it is federal legislation that can be violated in shoreline construction and that kind of thing where fisheries habitat is damaged, and so we have a relationship with the federal government in terms of their taking action when it is identified by one of our plans that damage to fisheries habitat would ensue. There is a collaborative working relationship at all times, but the lines kind of split the way I've described. But inland lakes are ours.
Mrs Munro: OK, thank you. As a member representing an inland lake shoreline, I'm conscious of the fact there often seems to be some confusion over this, which is why I thought I'd take the opportunity to ask.
The other question I have is again sort of generic. When you were talking about the work that has been done with this forest science strategy, you made reference to the fact that the projects, as I understand, have to conform to or be in collaboration with the business side of forestry. As you go forward looking at the projects that would be deemed appropriate for the fish and wildlife side, is there a difference in strategy between what you would see as appropriate activities at the science level in fish and wildlife as opposed to forestry? I don't know if I've made that very clear.
Mr Munro: Let me give you an example; this may be a better way of answering the question. One of the criteria we have is how the given project will meet the legislative or policy needs, the strategic objectives of the ministry's program. When you take that as the criterion, if you go into the forest world, you're going to talk about a sustainable wood supply, wildlife habitat, all the things we need to get as a product of managing the forest. If you take the same criteria and go over to the fish and wildlife side, you're going to talk about sustainable fish populations, fish availability for angling and commercial fisheries, not disturbing fisheries habitat etc. So the criterion "Does it meet the strategic objectives of the program?" is easily translatable from one to the other. But how you would measure it specifically in working with the business area would obviously differ based on the different science that's necessary to support that program.
Mrs Munro: I think that really demonstrates the point you were making earlier about the fact that this work that has been done then has the ability to be a working document as you move into the second phase.
The Chair: Mr Maves.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): First of all, congratulations on acting upon so many of the auditor's recommendations and bringing in some new systems respecting the comments made by the auditor. Quite often we have ministries come in and say, "We really appreciate the auditor's work and agree with his recommendations," and then fail to follow up on those recommendations. So my congratulations to you for that.
Previously, it seems a lot of our processes have been a little more ad hoc, and through the minister's report now you've got more concrete measures for your programs; for instance, how and when to measure and exactly how you do those measurements. I understand you're implementing that in the forest sector and, through your comments with Ms Martel, in fish and wildlife. Would you say those more concrete measures and that more defined checklist came directly as a result of the provincial government's report?
Mr Munro: Yes, and our own recognition of the need for it. As the deputy was indicating, some of the thinking around getting a better working relationship between those who provide the science support to a program and those who are driving the policy and program in response to other needs was recognized as something that had to be brought closer together, and this strategy helps do that as well. So in large part it's driven by the auditor's recommendations, yes, but it's supported by where the ministry recognized it needed to go.
Mr Maves: I'm not clear: did the auditor recommend that that same type of system be implemented for fish and wildlife or just forestry, but you've seen the merits of it and decided to adopt it for fish and wildlife?
Mr Munro: My interpretation of the auditor's remarks was that they were to the science portfolio itself. So if the ministry found itself in a situation where it needed to go into a brand new area of science at some point in the future, the expectation would be that a similar system with the same rigour would be applied. That's certainly our intent.
Mr Maves: You talked about the science strategy calling for the use of partnerships, and the members have all talked a little about the use of partnerships. How long, actually, has the ministry been entering these types of partnerships? It's not just a new thing. Is it something that's been going on?
Mr Munro: You're correct; it's not new. We've been entering partnerships all along. What we've done, though, is stepped up the attention we pay and the management rigour that's applied. By that I mean we aren't encouraging an individual scientist to walk across the parking lot, as in the description I made of the two labs side by side in Sault Ste Marie, but rather we have the two management committees looking consciously for areas of common priority, looking to apply in a collaborative fashion the resources we each bring to the science agenda. That has happened in the past, but in a more ad hoc fashion, where it was in the interest of a given director of science or director of a given portfolio of the science to do that. What we've done is brought the two organizations together in a more formal fashion. We even have in place a committee structure where we annually pull together all the priorities we have and look for areas of commonality and then structure the partnerships accordingly. We've done the same with the major forest industry players and other interested groups.
Mr Maves: You mentioned the union of forest research organizations-
Mr Munro: It's called IUFRO, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations.
Mr Maves: -which brings to mind a question: how does the system we're now operating-you said you got praise for it at that group-compare with other jurisdictions, for instance, other provinces?
Mr Munro: You heard the deputy speak of a piece of software called ProGrid. ProGrid is used as a tool by a number of organizations, not just in forest science but in science. While it started in North America, it's rapidly becoming worldwide. There is what is called a ProGrid users' group. That's where they get together once a year and say, "What have you learned? How did it work for you?" and that kind of discussion. We have been invited to that users' group last year and for the year coming and, simply put, we've been given strong accolades from our colleagues who are also using it, because we've taken it one step beyond. We've added the front end I was speaking of earlier, about the theme groups, the tight link to the business area, and making sure that relevancy column of criteria is well and truly established.
Most others have used it for a granting structure, so they already have set the purposes for which the grant has been established when the grant is established. As an example, NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of the federal government, has its money allocated by functioning groups of priorities. So all they did was take ProGrid as the tool to crank through the priorities. What we've done is put that front end on it, where annually you review the priorities and adjust, recognizing that in a dynamic organization like a provincial government, where you're working on the ground, you have changing priorities all the time. Things will become more important; things will be solved and therefore be less important from a science perspective because they're already being implemented. So with that dynamic change on the front end, and integrating that with the priority-setting process, we were given accolades by that group.
Mr Maves: Was ProGrid developed by our ministry? Who actually developed ProGrid?
Mr Munro: They like to call themselves the science mafia of Canada. It's actually a small group of people who-the principle came out of the aerospace industry in Canada, the group that developed the Canadarm. They now have set up a consulting company-because they wrote this software. It was written primarily for the allocation of money in a granting style, as I described, and then they work with us to mature it for these other uses. We've been emulated already; Forest Renewal BC, British Columbia, has taken the system we've developed and, with permission from Ontario, has applied it with very little adjustment.
Mr Maves: One last general question, and it's a very subjective one. How would you gauge the relationship right now between your ministry and some of the forest companies, for example, in Ontario with regard to science and their understanding for the needs of science?
Mr Munro: We have put in place what we call the managers' forum. It's just the people who are responsible in the forest companies for their interest in the question, "How do we mature the way we manage the forest on behalf of the ministry under our licence?" They are woodlands managers or vice-presidents of woodlands, that kind of level in the organization. We get together about two or three times a year. It's a very collegial relationship. They come to the table with cash. They recognize they don't have the science expertise themselves. They're interested in entering into partnerships with us using this system because they understand that the priorities get ferreted out. We do the same thing as I described with the Canadian Forest Service with them-"What are your priorities? How do they overlap with what the ministry's mandate is?"-find the areas of common interest and work together.
The Chair: Anyone else on the government side? No? Mr Ramsay.
Mr Ramsay: I'd like to address my questions to Mr Munro. I'm glad I took that break. It gave my colleague Richard Patten and me a little chance to go through the forest strategy paper that you handed us. I'm a little shocked by it because it seems to run a little contrary to some of the answers that you were giving me. I was asking you specifically, would the lack of resources or the cuts in personnel have anything to do with the change from the 1996 direction to now, and you seemed to imply that, no, the priorities had changed. Yet when I look at this, and just for the little time that Richard and I have been able to look at it, it seems like a cry for help from the ministry. All over the place there are admissions that there are insufficient resources, both monetary and personnel, to do the job that the scientists in your ministry believe is needed.
On page 17, "Human Resources: MNR's S&T personnel resources are deficient in several areas. Presently there is insufficient critical mass in key research areas. For example, there is a need to provide strong social and economic research in support of sustainability goals. There is also a shortage of technical and administrative S&T support staff. Downsizing and reorganization directives over the past decade have eroded MNR's corporate science capacity and have discouraged the recruitment of new, younger expertise. Coupled with fiscal restraint realities, S&T staff have been unable to expand their network and interactions with colleagues in other provinces and internationally. In total, these conditions have created a suboptimal working environment where resources and opportunities are low and attitudes edge on apathetic."
I must congratulate you for the frankness of some of these statements. I look at page 35, which I guess gets pretty serious about the legal needs of science because of your legislative mandate, and it basically spells those out.
On the next page, 36, "Status of EA Science T&Cs"-terms and conditions-"A considerable reduction in program funding and staffing for the science T&Cs has occurred over the past four years in accordance with the government's objectives for deficit reduction and reduced spending. Consequently, the resources originally planned for each of the programs has not been maintained. Nevertheless, MNR is obliged to meet EA act requirements and deliver science programs that, at a minimum, satisfy the wording in each science T&C."
The ministry says that you feel you've got enough here to do the very minimum, but it says, "With the growing trend towards litigation, MNR's programs may be legally challenged. Questions on how well MNR's science programs comply with the timber class EA approval may be ultimately decided in a court of law."
That seems pretty serious.
Mr Munro: Can I speak to those observations? They're in here because facts are facts. The truth of the response I gave was, though, that this strategy was designed to overcome that scenario. As it says, in terms of the EA, we believe we'll be meeting the requirements, and we'll be testing that through the review of the timber class EA. We believe we'll be there. But this strategy was specifically designed to ferret out the specific priorities that must be met and make sure that we do have the resources allocated to them.
I don't mean to imply for a minute that the size of the science program today is the same as it was in 1998. It's not. The figures that I will provide to you, Ms Martel, will show that. But the strategy has overcome that scenario and has been specifically designed so that we concentrate our efforts, both the ones from the internal resources and the ones through our partnerships, so that we do meet legal and required priorities of, in this case, the forest program.
If I led you to believe that we were operating on a premise that everything was rosy and we had the same resources we had before, then I misled you, and that was not my intent. But that is the basis upon which the strategy has been built so we can meet our obligations.
Mr Ramsay: Continuing along this line, from page 38, section 5.2.2, "Changes in Science Funding," it says, "The reduction in science funding initiated in 1996 represents the largest contextual driver for this strategy now and for the foreseeable future." So yes, that confirms what you're saying.
On page 39, section 5.2.3:
"Capacity: Overall budget reductions have eroded MNR's capacity to deal with many critical uncertainties about sustainable forest management. The actual capacity reduction can be estimated on the basis of differential funding since 1996 but this would not provide a complete picture." It talks about some overall science funding of the government and synergies between other ministries, etc.
It goes on in the next paragraph: "There has been a severe reduction in overall capacity to conduct science and transfer activities...." I take it that's the implementation of the science in the field. Is that what a transfer activity is?
Mr Munro: Yes, taking the new knowledge as it has been created and applying it in the field.
Mr Ramsay: "This reduction has affected research activities but it has been equally devastating to transfer activities. Staff normally devoted to transfer both formally through conducting courses, workshops, etc have been confined to assisting with the MNR priorities such as Lands for Life and judicial review. Consequently, the capacity for day-to-day transfer activities, particularly with the forest industry, is much reduced."
What are the consequences of that?
Mr Munro: If left alone, we would be in non-compliance and we would not provide our business areas with the information and knowledge they need to do their job. Again, this is the platform upon which this strategy was built and part of the reason why we went to a full-blown science strategy, to figure out how we could get where we needed to get. This is a leading-edge piece of work, as recognized in the scientific community. I have every confidence we will overcome those dramatic statements in our delivery. The proof of the pudding will be in the delivery, absolutely, and will be measured in a quasi-legal environment with the timber EA review on that particular piece of work, as you know. I have every confidence we will have risen to the occasion. The strategy is specifically designed to overcome those dramatic changes that are described.
Mr Ramsay: But you do state in here that there is the possibility that whether you're in compliance or not may be decided in a court of law. The authors of this report are not as confident that you may meet those legal obligations.
Mr Munro: Recognizing that this was written as the platform upon which we needed to write a strategy to get there, not as the result of the development of the strategy.
Mr Ramsay: So there are obviously the legal obligations under the legislation that you act under, and that's one thing. It goes on at page 41, and it's something that I'm familiar with, coming from an agricultural background. You use OMAFRA as the example, that we're not investing in the science to get the optimum, if you will, efficiencies and productivity from our forest industry.
OMAFRA has always had the sense that the more they invest in R&D, the more productive our farmers would be in this province, and the research that OMAFRA has funded, some internally, some through the University of Guelph, has proven that. In pork research and other areas we seem to be the leaders and this is what makes our farmers in Ontario so productive and very competitive and used as an example.
Obviously the mindset isn't there with the Ontario government that we've got to do the same with our forest industry and that the government needs to be a leader. I'm sort of paraphrasing what's being said here. The last sentence there in that paragraph is, "Only a significant investment in knowledge will realize these expectations," referring to enhancing productivity. That's going to be very important, especially with the pressures from various groups about the way we use our forests. So our science is going to become more and more important to do a better job, to satisfy all the demands out there about how we use our forests.
Mr Munro: One significant difference between OMAFRA and MNR is MNR has stewardship responsibility for crown land; OMAFRA is functioning on private land, functioning in terms of providing their science to a private landowner who is in a production environment. If our science was to support only the forest industry and to only do the one thing-increase productivity on the ground-I think the parallels would be more easily implemented.
The truth of the matter is we have to balance that increased productivity with the other values that the public of Ontario wants from their forests and that in a true, sustainable environment are legitimate parts of the forested ecosystem that we need to ensure are maintained, everything from protected areas to habitat to aesthetic areas in the province.
I think our forest science does require a significant investment if it were going to go to that OMAFRA equivalent. Article 5 of the Ontario Forest Accord is where we've turned to get that investment and it is through the partnership arrangements I've been speaking about part of this morning. We do have significant resources being partnered with us to meet these objectives, with the forest industry putting some significant dollars on the table, and some of our other partners.
I guess I would respond by suggesting that the agenda is a little different and that we do have to do more than just the increased productivity, but increased productivity is one of our directions and we are working on that in collaboration with our partners, again using this strategy as the tool to ferret out the priority areas of investment.
Mr Ramsay: That's exactly the point. Section 5.2.5 talks about science as an investment. That seems to be the cultural difference between what's happening now, because of your funding pressures and, I take it, from what you and your branch would like to see. It says, "A prevailing notion throughout the strategy analysis was one in which S&T is seen as a cost to and not an investment in the management of natural resources." I guess that's the difference. "This view undoubtedly influences the ongoing decisions to reduce S&T budgets. Ironically, this perspective is not however shared by broader government science and technology funding initiatives, nor is it the same in other jurisdictions." Then you give Alberta as an example, which "has decided to increase their investment in forest-related S&T in order to increase forest sector outputs for a broad range of economic and ecological products."
Obviously you're in a tough position here. On the one hand the scientists in your branch want to see more investment in this and give some valid reasons. I understand your job; you work for the government and you have to defend the policy. But I'd just say to you that you've got an advocate here. We need to be pushing for more of this and I'll be doing my part in doing that. I think we need to have more money dedicated to this, not only for our legal responsibilities but for increased output and productivity for a greatly diminishing resource. So we have to do better with less.
If anybody wants to have a finishing comment, that's fine, or I'll leave it there.
The Chair: Any questions?
Mr John C. Cleary (Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh): Yes. I was looking through your document and I was just wondering, MNR used to operate around the pits and quarries act, and then that was handed out to private enterprise. What role does MNR play in that now?
Mr Munro: There is nothing in the science piece. The pits and quarries is more of an allocation, I believe. That's not an area within my purview.
Mr Burke: I don't believe there was anything raised in the auditor's material with respect to that, but I can certainly get back to you to more specifically answer the question that you've raised.
I know we work with industry with respect to pits and quarries. I'm not aware that we've transferred anything to them in particular. We still work with them, we still do the allocations, and so on.
Mr Cleary: This is an issue in rural Ontario, in my part of Ontario. Sometimes we have a difficult time getting answers, so I thought I would just throw it out there at this time.
The other thing I was wondering about, and I suppose it's not in here, is the beaver control. Are there any partnerships that you're putting together on beaver control? I know it used to be an MNR problem. It's a big issue in the agricultural community. I was just wondering if there are any partnerships or anything there.
Right now it's in the hands of the municipalities, which I think is unfair, because if you look back, for as many years as I can remember, the beavers were brought in there by MNR and now they've left us with all of the problem.
Mr Burke: Again, I don't have any material nor do I recall anything with respect to a problem with that, but I can certainly check and get back to you.
Mr Cleary: I can sure give you some problems if you want them directed to you.
The Chair: Anything else, Mr Cleary?
Mr Cleary: Sure. The other thing, under fish and wildlife-and I don't know whether it's federal or provincial-where you have licensed people who net fish in eastern Ontario and they are allowed to net in spawning times; namely perch, Lake St Francis. That's a big issue. I've had the fish and game clubs after me continuously about that. A federal or provincial problem?
Mr Burke: If it's an inland lake, it would be ours.
Mr Cleary: I think it's yours, then. I just had to get that on the record because I've had the fish and game clubs after me for years about these licensed people who fish, especially in spawning time.
The Chair: Ms Martel?
Ms Martel: I asked you earlier on for some statistics and I'm going to expand my list for you. I asked specifically for fiscal years beginning 1998-99. I wonder if you can provide us with the same details-manpower, budget and projects and the value of the projects-but for fiscal year 1995-96 and fiscal 1996-97. The auditor has already provided us with 1997-98; it's the one we do have already. If you could give me the two front-end fiscal years and similar information, that would be helpful.
Can I ask about the staffing complement in the division itself? The auditor said about 500 people in 1997-98, and you'll update those statistics for us. Is the general complement, then, scientists? Do you have a number of categories of scientists? Are there technical people who are not scientists, and an administrative staff? Can you give me a profile of the staffing complement in the division?
Mr McKee: The division is the science and information resources division. One of the branches is the science branch. Another branch is under Frank Kennedy's leadership, which is science and information, and that's focusing more on knowledge management and the integration of those components. There is an information management branch which is focusing around the core information management things-architecture, planning, standards etc-and there is a small IT organization to look after the infrastructure.
Ms Martel: I think you've mentioned four branches within the division itself.
Mr McKee: Yes.
Ms Martel: Which branch has the biggest complement? Would it be the science development and transfer branch?
Mr McKee: Yes.
Mr Munro: The science development and transfer branch itself, though, has matured into the two new branches of applied research and development and science and information, which is why Mr Kennedy and I are both here.
Ms Martel: What I'd be interested in is the complement of scientists-or I don't know if they're scientists and technicians; I'm not sure which term you use to define them-the individuals MNR has who are actually doing the project work, research etc. I'd be interested in those numbers. I'm not sure: were you going to respond, Mr Munro, or do you want me to keep going?
Mr Munro: I was going to identify them for you. We have research scientists, we have technicians and we have what we call field specialists. They are made up of people who are biologists and foresters, predominantly, who function in that role that you describe. So that's the sort of response you'll be getting.
Ms Martel: Can you give those numbers to me as well over the period that I asked? Is that a possibility or is it too difficult to break that down?
Mr Munro: The question you ask may drag the time out a little bit by which we're able to get you the answer, but we will get you the answer.
Ms Martel: I don't know if we'll be back here this afternoon, but if you can get the other portions to me and then that comes later, that would be fine.
In terms of the strategy itself, because I haven't had a chance to look at the document, how do you guarantee that the user's views are implemented in setting the priorities and then guarantee that they're involved in the post-evaluation to determine the success of the project or how valuable or useful it was?
Mr Munro: What we've done is have the forest division senior staff, the field services division and the science and information resources division work together to co-lead each of the theme groups.
If we talk about a specific one, we'll have questions being raised by the forest division staff, who are the policy and program staff. They know what's required at the provincial level in terms of where the forest program is going. We also have people coming out of the individual districts who are implementing it on the ground, who are working day by day with the forest companies. They too have issues or concerns there at the table. Then you have the science staff at the table who say, "We already know the answers to these three questions," because of the scientific knowledge they hold. "The next question is the fourth one." So the three perspectives work together to develop the strategic approach around each theme area. That way they stay tightly linked to the business area's needs at both the policy program development level and the field implementation level.
Ms Martel: I think I understand that. Maybe I should have been more specific and asked about users as stakeholders-the forest industry, Tembec representatives: Did this project make any sense or not, given the project you've already described, on the side of fish and wildlife, OFAH etc?
Are those coming through the district level, then?
Mr Munro: They are, unless we're entering into a structured partnership with them. Then they may help us co-write the proposal.
Ms Martel: So they'll do it directly.
Mr Munro: It will depend on whether it's just general input on, "What are the priorities around this area?" or whether it's trying to drive, in a partnership environment, to a specific objective. Both are possible in the way we've got it structured.
Ms Martel: In terms of the pilot that you ran, those user groups were part of that pilot as well in terms of their views being canvassed after the end of last fiscal year?
Mr Munro: We very actively worked on the partnership that I described with Tembec and the Canadian Forest Service, and had them right in on the discussion of the projects and the results.
Ms Martel: But you would have done a number of other projects. How many projects did you actually test, then, through the fiscal year?
Mr Munro: What we called the beta test was only nine projects, I think. The operational trial was 37, or something like that. So it was a full portfolio of project activity.
Ms Martel: If you looked at the 37, would you see that affected users had their views canvassed at the end of that for evaluation, or is the problem that some of these will be multi-year, so there isn't any point right now in talking to them?
Mr Munro: Yes. We're not closed off yet. Most of those projects are still part of the ongoing evaluation for the upcoming budget year, because they are multi-year projects.
Ms Martel: I haven't had a chance to look at the document, and I appreciated the comments that Mr Ramsay put on the table in terms of human resources, because clearly I think where he was heading in his first round of questions was to determine if the reason the 1996 strategic plan had to be changed was because there wasn't the staff to implement it. I think that's probably the thought that some of us had on this side of the room.
There's no doubt that you have now developed a strategy that you feel confident will deliver on your obligations and your responsibilities. I come at it from a different way. My question to you is, when you cut your science budget-and we know there have been cuts; you've identified that, and we're going to see how large those were-and when you cut your scientific projects, at what point do you then put the sustainability of our fish and wildlife and forestry resources at risk, and have we hit that point? It's one thing for the ministry to develop a strategy to try to live within the constraints you have, and I think that's what you've tried to do, but there's a whole other matter of whether now living within those constraints really means we have hit the point where we are putting those resources at risk. Can you comment on where you think we are now with respect to those really important items?
Mr Munro: Boy, that's a $64-million question, isn't it?
The sustainability of resources in Ontario, sticking with the example of forest resources because of the area and the document we're discussing, is characterized by a very structured requirement in our forest management planning process. If you take a look at the forest management planning manual, you'll find that there are 14 indicators of sustainability that each and every forest management plan author must satisfy. Then and only then will the ministry sign off on that plan, making the operational implementation of that plan a legal situation.
Have we eroded that? No, I don't believe we have. Are there more criteria out there as we learn more and more about forests? Yes. At some point in the future, the 14 indicators may mature into something else. As we gain more knowledge about the forest and about how the forest ecosystem behaves in response to both natural and man-caused disturbance, we will continue to refine our measures of sustainability. It's in the adaptive nature of learning more about the forest and then implementing that that science comes to the fore. As we understand it today, as we have it in documentation today, we are implementing a sustainable forest management program, yes.
Ms Martel: But at one level the government has been incapable of even meeting the terms and conditions. I set aside 77, which deals with aboriginal people's concerns. If I look at your obligation to table annually reports with respect to forest sustainability, I would bet that you don't have 1999-2000 tabled, and I'd be surprised if you had 1998-99 tabled. I think the last set of documents that we looked at, albeit it was probably four or five months ago, was a report from 1996-97. The ministry has an obligation now to provide information with respect to the state of the forest, annual reports, and you have not been able to meet those. Maybe, Deputy, you can tell us when the last set was tabled, because they were not current.
Mr Burke: Well, you're correct: we certainly were behind the time of appropriate tabling some time ago. It was pointed out to us both by the auditor as well as the Environmental Commissioner.
I can tell you today that we have tabled 1997-98-it is now formally tabled-and 1998-99 has been signed off. It is going through the regular committee process and we expect to see it tabled, if everything goes according to Hoyle, within the next week to 10 days. Of course, 1999-2000 will be produced probably before the end of this year. What we chose to undertake or what we've indicated we would do is table them no later than 18 months after the completion of that fiscal year period. Of course, that won't be until some time later. I think October of this year would be 18 months after the 1999-2000.
Ms Martel: Can you tell us why there's been such a delay? This has been an ongoing problem from the time the T&Cs were actually developed and accepted. There was never a report that was tabled on time and we still, as you said, are experiencing a significant delay. These are really important indicators about the state of our forests, and because they then become public documents, that makes them even more important so that people who have a concern, whether it be in the forest industry or the environmental community, have some baseline to work with. I think it's significant that the ministry has not been able to get even that out the door in terms of telling people very publicly what the situation is.
Mr Burke: I think one of the reasons behind them being delayed is waiting basically for reporting material. We expected material and information from the forest industry, from companies. As you know, MNR is very decentralized and has many district offices. Much of that material and information had to be compiled, so through that. It was also somewhat of a new process for us, and I think we had a hard time getting ourselves straightened out as to how we would collect the material, the extent of the material that was needed in order to fulfill the requirements under the tabling documents, and so on.
I can tell you today, I think we've got it right. I don't think we got off to a great start, and I do admit that, but I think we do have it right today and I expect to see regular on-time reporting from this point on.
The Chair: It's 12 o'clock. Any further questions from the government members?
Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre): No, Chair.
The Chair: There will not be a need, then, for us to return at 1:30 this afternoon. We look forward to your meeting with us tomorrow on the forest management issue, although to some extent that has been dealt with today as well, but we'll get into that further tomorrow.
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Mr Chair, I'd just like to know: this James Baker, that's not the evangelist Jim Bakker, is it?
The Chair: Thank you very much for attending here today, then, and we'll see you tomorrow.
The Chair: As agreed to earlier, we'll now deal with the subcommittee report on committee business. Would somebody who is on the subcommittee read it into the record, please?
Mr Patten: The motion is, I move that the Provincial Auditor be-
The Chair: No, the subcommittee report itself.
Mr Patten: Your subcommittee on committee business met on Wednesday, February 28, 2001, and recommends the following:
(1) That the motion of Mr Sergio be dealt with, with certain amendments, by the committee today, February 28, 2001, directly following the morning session.
(2) That the Chair meet with Mr Burgess and report back to the committee at a later date.
(3) That the Agricorp report will be dealt with on the afternoon of Monday, March 5, 2001, if time permits.
The Chair: Is there any discussion on the report to the committee? If not, I'm going to call for a vote on that.
All those in favour of the committee report? Opposed? Carried.
Items 2 and 3 speak for themselves. If we could return then to item 1, which is the actual motion. Ms McLeod.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan: I appreciate receiving notice that the motion would be dealt with today. I'll just take a very brief moment-because the people around the table have changed from the time this motion was originally tabled-to give a very brief history.
I had originally presented the motion when we were dealing with health issues at the public accounts committee and I was sitting as a member of the committee. In fairness to the committee, the motion came without notice and caught people by surprise, so it was not supported that day. Subsequent to the meeting, the Premier was asked whether or not he was supportive of the notion of a value-for-money audit, and he certainly indicated that he would welcome a value-for-money audit, including in relationship to the issue of Cancer Care Ontario's establishment of the private clinic for radiation therapy.
Mr Sergio did present the motion again to committee. It was indicated by the committee vote at that time that it would be deferred for further consideration. I hope that the committee would consider it favourably. I do believe it's one of the ways in which we can really examine whether there is a cost benefit to having established this new radiation therapy clinic in a private centre rather than having Cancer Care Ontario run the clinic itself. That is the sole purpose of the motion and something which the auditor has assured me is well within his purview.
I believe the auditor may have suggested that the motion include a recommendation that the auditor report back to the public accounts committee within a period of time. So if one of my colleagues would consider a friendly amendment to the motion, I think that would be very appropriate.
The Chair: Just for the record, although I think it's already on the record, the motion as presented reads as follows:
"I move that the Provincial Auditor be asked to investigate the value-for-money aspects of the decision by Cancer Care Ontario to provide after-hours radiation therapy through a private clinic rather than in-house."
That's the motion as it stands. I understand there may be some amendments to that. Mrs Munro, are you prepared to deal with the amendment that you indicated you might move earlier?
Mrs Munro: Yes. I have a couple of concerns, including those that were raised by the auditor in our previous conversation in the subcommittee, and I certainly want to address a couple of the concerns that he has suggested to us.
I'd like to begin our conversation on this with the wording as it stands with respect to "the decision" in the second line. I'm just wondering whether we might consider instead "the policy," because it's really not the decision that I think is the issue here; it's the question of the policy. I'm wondering if the auditor might also comment on that in that it seems to me consistent with the kind of work that is normally done by the auditor, that he is commenting on policy as opposed to what's implied here in "decision."
The Chair: Basically, your amendment would be to strike out the word "decision" and insert the word "policy." Mr Peters, do you have any comments on that?
Mr Erik Peters: I just want to be abundantly clear: I cannot comment on government policy overall, because I don't want to second-guess the government. But if the view is that this is just the administrative policy of Cancer Care Ontario to privatize, I'm OK. I just want to make that distinction. If we are dealing with administrative policy, I can deal with it. If it is government small-p or big-p policy, I have a problem. If the idea is that I can branch further out into any initiatives by the government on privatization, like privatization as a policy, that's not within my purview. My purview is the administration.
As it is, I can live with the word "policy" here because I would interpret it, and I want you to understand that I have to interpret it, as an administrative policy decision of Cancer Care Ontario.
The Chair: Any comments? Mr Maves, is it on this issue?
Mr Maves: No.
Mrs McLeod: I have a question: in changing the word from "decision" to "policy," it would not restrict you in any way from accessing the business details that you would need to know to do a value-for-money audit of that policy decision?
Mr Peters: I think the combination of the two words would be clearer to me: "...aspects of the policy decision by Cancer Care Ontario to provide..."
The Chair: I see what you're saying. Do you have any problems with that, Ms Munro? In other words, to insert the word "policy," the use of both words there?
Mrs Munro: I think that's possible.
Ms Mushinski: Just one question of the auditor. Mr Peters, the motion, as it stands, would imply to me that you're going to be asked to do an audit of something that is happening now. This is the potential for Cancer Care Ontario to provide after-hours radiation publicly. If Cancer Care Ontario has not been doing that, how are you going to do a value-for-money audit?
Mr Peters: First, I think you're quite right in pointing out that the word "investigate" may have to be replaced with the word "audit." But there are two things. It is an audit of the decision. In other words, what we would audit at this point is, what is the business plan? What was the business decision that drove this, how was it planned to be? I probably won't be able to report back to you how it actually worked out at a later stage. That will be at a later time, because we'd need to have the performance of how they did it.
Ms Mushinski: OK. That's fair enough. So you'll be looking at this in exactly the same way that a new government initiative may-
Mr Peters: That's right. As to how, for example, MTO outsourced highway maintenance; that sort of thing.
Ms Mushinski: Right, exactly.
Mrs Munro: I'm not sure I'm in order, but I was going to ask, would that explanation be better served by a different wording in terms of what we're asking you to do?
The Chair: He's already suggested that the word "investigate" be changed to the word "audit."
Mrs Munro: Yes, but I'm looking back at the "policy" or "decision" thing. In the comment you made a moment ago-and I'd like you to repeat it for me if you can-on the issue of examining the business plan, is that what you suggested in response to Ms Mushinski's question, would you do this in the same way that you would do any other? My question is, first of all, if you could repeat exactly what you said, but secondly, whether that should not only change the word "investigate" to "audit," but also this "decision" or "policy" issue that we're struggling with as well.
Mr Peters: We're fine because that is covered by the word "aspect." If we talk about the value-for-money aspects of the policy decision, that would very neatly put me into the administrative box, if you will, on the policy decision. It is a new policy decision. I think that would be worked in.
What I'm pointing out to you is that the main focus of my audit would be on the business plan or the business case for the decision, as opposed to being on execution or whether privatization is a good thing or not.
Mrs Munro: I guess my question came from the fact that that's what I was looking at when I was looking at substituting "decision" and "policy." So I just wondered whether it would be clearer if we referred to the business plan for this decision, as opposed to leaving it. You've suggested that "aspect" is good enough.
Mr Peters: That would be fair enough, or another way-we're doing words here. But for the moment if we take a look and say, "the value-for-money aspects of the policy decision," or take that out altogether: "the value-for-money aspects of Cancer Care Ontario providing after-hours radiation therapy through a private sector clinic." Whether it's a policy decision or whatever, it would leave that off but it allows me to examine the value-for-money aspects of providing the service through a private clinic.
The Chair: What we would be left with then-and somebody else will have to move it-is that it would state something to the effect, "That the Provincial Auditor be asked to audit the value-for-money aspect of Cancer Care Ontario providing after-hours radiation therapy through a private clinic rather than in-house." That's what it would read.
Mr Maves, are you standing down your request to speak?
Mr Maves: No, my request was to speak to the motion. Right now, we're working on the amendment to the motion.
The Chair: That's right.
Mr Maves: Is my request to speak to the motion-
The Chair: It's still on the list. Absolutely.
Mr Maves: Thank you.
The Chair: There are two other aspects contained in the motion: who it is to report back to and by what time? The suggested wording is this: "That the Provincial Auditor be asked to audit and report to the public accounts committee within X number of months the value-for-money aspect of Cancer Care Ontario providing after-hours radiation therapy through a private clinic rather than in-house."
Mr Ramsay: Just put "as soon as possible."
The Chair: As soon as possible.
Mr Maves, would you like to move an amended version of the motion?
Mr Maves: I won't move it. I'll just put it out there for the committee's and the auditor's consideration.
The Chair: OK.
Mr Maves: I move that the Provincial Auditor be asked to conduct a value-for-money audit on the policy decision by Cancer Care Ontario to provide after-hours radiation therapy through a private clinic rather than in-house.
The Chair: And that he report to the public-
Mr Maves: It leads to further debate when you add that, because "as soon as possible" leads to the questions I raised last week, and that I raise again today, about the auditor and what projects he will defer in order to do this audit, and if he doesn't defer ongoing projects to do this audit, what kind of costs is he looking at to undertake this audit, in addition to his budgeted audits at this point in time, and in lieu of all the audits you have ongoing, when would you be able to undertake this audit if you didn't defer any of those?
Mr Peters: In terms of fully costing it, we would have to do a bit of a plan and analysis of what is involved to find out what the cost of the audit would be. In terms of staff availability, at this moment I would probably be looking at commencing this audit somewhere in the middle of June, because we are fully booked with the public accounts audit starting, the various agencies all having March 31 year-ends coming at us, while at the same time we're winding down the value-for-money audits that go into my 2001 report.
The Chair: When would you have it completed, then? If you start in June, when would it normally be completed?
Mr Peters: Including the planning phases, I would say we would be able to report to the committee in probably a September-October time frame.
The Chair: OK, so when the House resumes in the fall.
Mr Maves: Would you have to drop an audit you're planning on doing in order to accommodate this, or would you just add the increased cost if you've got it in your budget? Do you have to come back to the assembly to get a bigger budget in order to do this? I want to know how that's all going to work itself out.
Mr Peters: I can't answer that question for one very straightforward technical reason; that is, the Board of Internal Economy has asked me to present my budget for the year 2001-02 as of March this year. So it depends very much on how they react to my budget request for next year. That's in their hands. I can tell you, from the comments I left with you about the Audit Act and the funding level of my office, that regardless of how we slice it, I would have to go for more funding and more resources for my office. It depends very much on how amenable the Board of Internal Economy is to that request whether I can accommodate it within what money they give me or whether I have to go for additional money.
As I pointed out to you, at six cents per $1,000 I'm by far the leanest. Right now my budget is running at about $8 million. If I were funded on the same basis as the nearest office, which is the federal government, my budget would be $18 million, to give you an idea as to what we're talking about.
The Chair: You're very effective, Mr Peters. So it's basically how much the Board of Internal Economy allocates toward his total budget. Only then will he be able to say whether there's enough money to do this specific aspect of it.
Mrs Munro: I want to ask a question in terms of precedents, previous requests of this nature: how have they worked out for you in terms of timing and funding?
Mr Peters: Up to this point I have not gone forward with a request for additional money. The first one will be this year, and that will be in relation to the special assignment regarding the Bruce deal, because that will require expertise to assess that I don't have in-house. This is the first time. Fortunately, or unfortunately, all my staff is on unlimited hours, so previously we accommodated through additional overtime and working longer hours, doing it that way.
Mrs Munro: If I understand you correctly, when previous committees have made motions of a similar nature, you have been able to accommodate those requests.
Mr Peters: Yes, with one proviso: these requests are all made under section 17 of the Audit Act. Section 17 allows me to deal with these requests if they do not interfere with my other duties; therefore, I have accommodated them. I have done what you suggested, Mr Maves: I have not dropped audits to conduct them, but I have taken latitude in terms of when I completed the work in order to put it into the process.
The Chair: Can we leave it this way, then: if this motion passes, depending upon what happens at the Board of Internal Economy, you'll have to come back to us and tell us you either can or cannot do it, depending on the resources you get from the board.
Mr Peters: OK.
The Chair: Is that reasonable?
Mr Maves: Chair, do you have to put that in the motion? I guess you don't because-
The Chair: If he hasn't got any resources to do it, once he gets his budget from the Board of Internal Economy, he will come back here and say, "I can't do it without more resources."
Mr Maves: Or similarly report back on what he has to drop if he's going to do it.
The Chair: Exactly.
Mr Peters: There is a technical way of dealing with it-maybe you can put it in-and that is that the motion be amended to say, "I move that the Provincial Auditor, under section 17 of the Audit Act, be asked to...." This is the section of the act that specifies I can do work on a motion of this committee but also have the latitude of dealing with the resource issue if it conflicts with my other duties.
Mr Maves: Can we read back that final wording of the motion? I'll go along with that.
The Chair: OK.
Mr Maves: Would it then read: "That the Provincial Auditor, under section 17 of the Audit Act, be asked to conduct a value-for-money audit of the policy decision by Cancer Care Ontario to provide after-hours radiation therapy through a private clinic rather than in-house."
The Chair: "... and report to the public accounts committee as soon as possible."
Ms Mushinski: You didn't mind "policy decision"?
The Chair: I'm leaving that out completely.
Mr Peters: I'm easy with just saying, "the value-for-money aspects of Cancer Care Ontario providing after-hours radiation therapy through a private clinic rather than in-house."
Mrs Munro: My original comment was that when we looked at whether it should be "policy" or "decision," "policy decision" kind of gave us the framework we wanted.
Mr Peters: Ms Munro, I'm not unhappy with that. It's not a do-or-die thing that I want to see eliminated. If you would like it in, I have the latitude to do what the committee is asking me to do.
The Chair: Could I read the proposed motion again, which somebody else will have to move, "That the Provincial Auditor, under section 17 of the Audit Act, be asked to conduct a value-for-money audit of the policy decision by Cancer Care Ontario to provide after-hours radiation therapy through a private clinic rather than in-house and report back to the public accounts committee as soon as possible."
Would somebody like to move that?
Mr Maves: I move that.
The Chair: Mr Maves moves it, and Mr Patten seconds it. That's an amendment to the original motion.
Does the amendment carry? Yes.
Does the motion, as amended, carry?
Mr Maves: Recorded vote.
Cleary, Hastings, Martel, Maves, Munro, Mushinski, Patten.
The Chair: It's unanimous. A recorded unanimous vote; that must be a first in a while.
Thank you very much.
There's one other issue, and that was the letter that was requested, a copy of which will go to the Deputy Minister of Consumer and Business Services. Does anybody have a problem with the letter?
Ms Mushinski: Chair, I don't have a problem with the letter, but some serious reservations were raised by Mr Peters with respect to the increase from $280 million originally to $400 million. I wasn't sure if, in your comments yesterday, Mr Peters, you had actually expressed some desire to incorporate a request for information from the ministry with respect to that aspect, or an explanation.
Mr Peters: I had asked for an explanation, but the wording was rather vague, in a sense. There was not a specific question raised by the members. I wasn't sure at this point whether my raising that additional question-the question I have, and I put it on the record, is that at the time, the documents we examined said the ministry had gone forward to the Management Board of Cabinet with a request for $275 million.
Ms Mushinski: That's correct.
Mr Peters: That was in 1991. When we did the audit, that was still the information we had, and that was the factual confirmation we received from the ministry. What I find very astounding is that all of a sudden in February 2001 we find out they have dug up other records that they already knew at the time it would cost $400 million or more. This is of major concern. Rather than raise it through you as a question, I should tell you that I have to start taking a very serious look at the quality of information ministries bring forward to Management Board of Cabinet for decision-making purposes. That is really what the ministry did to this committee in open hearing; it put into question whether they actually went forward to Management Board of Cabinet with all the information they had on the business case they were putting forward.
Ms Mushinski: OK. That doesn't actually need to be-you're saying, though, that you don't want to incorporate that into your letter.
Mr Peters: No, I don't think the letter will help the committee very much at this point.
Ms Mushinski: OK.
The Chair: By putting that in the letter. Hopefully this letter will help.
Mr Peters: This letter will help with the decision that they actually denied outright information to the committee.
The Chair: OK. Next?
Mr Maves: I would prefer that the other aspect be included in the letter. I want to find out if they had other information in 1991, as they say, that said it would cost more than $275 million, and didn't bring that forward to Management Board.
The Chair: You want to put that in the letter?
Mr Maves: I think so.
The Chair: All right. It will be put in the letter.
Any further comments? No? OK. We stand adjourned till tomorrow at 10 o'clock in committee room 1.
The committee adjourned at 1224.