The Vice-Chair (Tony Silipo): I'd like to call the meeting of the standing committee on government agencies to order. As you know, committee members, we have a full agenda in front of us, so let's go right to item 1, which is the report of the subcommittee on committee business dated Thursday, March 12.
Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): I don't know if it's this set of minutes or the next set of minutes, but I have a question on the candidate who cannot be here today and is being postponed to another date, and what transpires if that candidate doesn't appear. I can't remember the date.
The Vice-Chair: What we have done on that, and it's probably useful to have it on the record -- that's with respect to Mr David Arnill, I believe. That March 12 report deals with all the intended appointees we are reviewing today, with the exception of Mr Arnill. Because he wasn't able, there was a request made for unanimous agreement, which is required for us to call him after the 30-day time line has passed. That agreement I gather has been reached, so our intention is that he be scheduled in front of the committee for April 15.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Mr Chair, on the same point: The concern I have on this is if the gentleman, and clearly out of the appointees, there's a great deal of controversy around this one, and I'm not suggesting any of this is intentional, but if the gentleman cannot attend the next meeting as well, do the rules that we work under simply allow the government to appoint this individual without his ever having to appear before this committee?
The Vice-Chair: Mr Agostino, we can check the rules again and maybe before the day is over, if you wish, give you a more precise clarification of what actually is our understanding of the rules. But certainly at this stage, my understanding is that we have as a committee done what is necessary to express unanimously our sense that we want Mr Arnill to appear and that, despite the time line, because he wasn't able to be here today, we want him to come and we're accommodating his schedule in this case because he is out of the country or out of town. The understanding is that he will appear on April 15. If that situation were to change for whatever reasons, then we would deal with it.
Mr Agostino: Mr Chair, for the record, I want to make it clear that if this gentleman does not appear on April 15, I certainly hope and suggest that the government members look at that and look at the opportunity there and, for lack of interest, that that appointment be rejected. Clearly I don't think it's appropriate for an appointment to go through without the gentleman even appearing before the committee once there has been such a strong request I think, at least from the two opposition parties, to have the gentleman here.
The next report is the subcommittee report dated March 19. There's a selection there for the Ontario Securities Commission, David Brown, by the official opposition party. Any discussion on that? All those in favour? Opposed? Carried.
The Vice-Chair: Sorry, that was moved by Mr Cullen. I just wanted to note that that would require a meeting of the committee by the 8th, I believe. I know there was some discussion about whether there could be agreement to schedule that review as well on the 15th, but that puts us again into unanimous agreement beyond the 30 days, and I gather the preference from the government side, Mr Grimmett, is to proceed on the 8th.
The Vice-Chair: Let's proceed to the actual reviews that we have scheduled for today. We begin with Jacquelyn Fraser. Ms Fraser, welcome to the committee. The process, as you probably know, is that we have up to half an hour to spend with you. We will start by giving you an opportunity to make any opening comments you may wish to make and then we will go around and give each of the three caucuses an opportunity to ask questions.
Ms Jacquelyn Fraser: I'd like to take a couple of minutes to give you a brief background of my experiences so far which I think have prepared me to be a good candidate for the Niagara Escarpment Commission.
I grew up on a dairy farm just east of the escarpment near the town of Georgetown. After graduating from high school, I went to the University of Guelph, where I took my bachelor of science in agriculture, majoring in resources management. This major focuses on topics such as environmental science and land use planning. During my undergrad years, I worked a number of summer jobs ranging from cold water stream rehabilitation to soil conservation education.
After completing my undergrad degree, I went on to do my master's also at Guelph in land resources management. My thesis topic focused on quarry rehabilitation, and I did my research at the Milton quarry, which is operated by Dufferin Aggregates, just north of Milton on the escarpment. I studied the viability of using pond fines, which is a byproduct of their processing operation, in their rehabilitation plans.
After completing my MSc in 1996, I worked for the university in public relations for a year and then joined ESG International, which is an environmental consulting firm based in Guelph. This company deals with a wide range of clients, from municipalities to oil and gas pipeline companies, provincial and federal ministries and private developers. At ESG I've been primarily involved in environmental assessments and route selection for oil and gas pipeline projects as well as public consultation and agricultural impact assessments. I will hopefully also be working on one or more quarry or pit rehabilitation projects this summer and into the future.
I feel my background has prepared me to be an asset to the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Having grown up in the area, I have a true appreciation of the escarpment and all that it has to offer. I hike and bike and ski and run on the escarpment land and even did my MSc research there and have also worked there. My formal academic training and work experience are all in the area of environmental land use planning, which I think is one of the most essential skills a Niagara Escarpment commissioner should have. I'd be very honoured to serve on the Niagara Escarpment Commission and I am very excited about this opportunity. Thank you.
Mr Agostino: Ms Fraser, welcome to the committee. As we look over the application and the work that you currently do, I just want to understand this. You are a consultant to private sector companies --
Mr Agostino: Based on the fact that obviously being a consultant, particularly to the aggregate industry, that would clearly be a link to the volume of proposals on the Niagara Escarpment, do you see the difficult position you'd be in, that in a sense there would be a benefit not necessarily only to yourself but to individuals such as yourself who are consultants in that field when applications come before the Niagara Escarpment Commission that you have to deal on? Frankly, for your business or businesses such as yours to continue to do well, companies have to continue to get work and have to continue to do work along the escarpment and other areas. Do you see that as a difficulty or a problem that could be posed for you from the point of view that clearly it could be perceived that there's a conflict there when ruling or judging on applications?
Mr Agostino: Do you see, though, that you'll bring any biases towards that because of the work you do -- and I am not suggesting in a malice sense or a sense of personal gain -- but do you not see a bias being there because the work you do is clearly with companies whose interest is to develop and applications that go to the commission have to be approved for those companies to do well? Even if it's not your own company, do you not see a bias towards the industry and a bias towards the development of the escarpment rather than the protection of the escarpment?
Ms Fraser: No, I wouldn't say so, because in environmental consulting your job is to not be biased and to look at it objectively. Our clients are not only the private developers, they're also the municipalities that may be developing green plans or federal agencies as well. So, no, I don't see that as being a problem.
Mr Agostino: How important do you see the balance? At the end of the day, if an application came down to a toss-up between the damage it could do to the escarpment and environmental protection and it was basically the same, weighted evenly on both sides, where do you think you would lean towards an application approval?
Mr Agostino: But you're not concerned at all about the fact that others on the board or the community as a whole may see that there is a conflict from the point of view of your professional background and the companies you represent, although you may declare conflict from a company that you personally have business with or your firm has business with? Do you not see a perception of a conflict there that may put you in a difficult position?
Mr Agostino: Again, because your client, someone, may not call you in until they've had an application approval, at which point they could be potential clients once they've had the application approved and then require someone to come forward -- I mean, it's not a personal thing. I don't know you, I'm not questioning your integrity whatsoever, but I think the perception with this particular board and commission and the way I see it shifting towards a very much pro-development mentality rather than a protection mentality of the escarpment is a real danger for a perceived conflict among other board members and among the community as a whole when applications come forward. That's clearly the concern I have. It's not a reflection on you personally, but it's a concern I have with an appointment with this type of background.
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Good morning, bonjour. Welcome, Madame, and I echo the sentiment of members of the committee to your dedication, your willingness, to serve the common good through an appointment. Tell me, are you now or have you ever been a member of a political party?
Mr Pouliot: If the people you work with, who you work for, who pay your wages, asked you to represent them, you would have to say, "I'm shutting the door, because today or tomorrow we have a meeting that will address this concern, and since I have you as an employer, what I would do is just declare a conflict, I would abstain from voting and I would not participate in the discussions leading to the decision-making"? You're quite comfortable you could switch the light on and off that way?
Ms Fraser: I think there's going to be such a wide variety of issues coming before me in the next three years that, quite frankly, it would be a very small proportion, if any at all, that involve my company.
Mr Pouliot: How did you find out about an appointment coming up? I read the sports section of the Toronto Sun and that's pretty well the limit of my reading of the newspaper. How did you find out? If I were to read the Sun, I'm not likely to know that they're soliciting for appointments on the Niagara Escarpment Commission. How would I find out? How did you find out?
Mr Chudleigh: I believe, without being so indiscreet as to ask your age, that you will be perhaps the youngest person to be appointed to the commission. I'd like to point out to the committee that it has been my experience that young people in our society are far more concerned about the environment than perhaps those of us who have spent a lot of time on this planet and perhaps have grown accustomed to some of the abuses that have been heaped on the planet. As such, I would look forward to your decisions on the escarpment as being from the youth perspective. After all, the Niagara Escarpment does belong to all the people of Ontario, not a concise group.
During your reclamation study on the Milton quarries -- for the information of the committee, the Milton quarries include that gap that goes through the escarpment which you can see from the 401 and which perhaps began the whole process of developing the Niagara Escarpment Commission and the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act. The quarry of the day was beginning to work away on the face, which would have scarred the escarpment forever and permanently. During your reclamation work, was there any suggestion that gap should eventually be filled in, during that reclamation process?
Ms Fraser: I didn't hear anything about that, no; not in my experience. They've put a bridge over it now for the Bruce Trail, so you can still go through there on the Bruce Trail. But I didn't hear any word of that at all.
The Vice-Chair: My understanding is the half-hour is divided up three ways. With the time the intended appointee takes being taken out from the government side, my sense would be to give up to that time to each of the caucuses. If people have questions they want to ask as a follow-up, that's fine. You still have time left, so you can come back.
Mr Agostino: Just to go back again to the point: I think it really is a key concern here. It's not your background, in my view, your expertise, your commitment to the environment; it is the potential conflicts of interest that could exist.
What you're telling us is that in regard to your company, the company you work for or your own potential clients, you're willing to give those up for the sake of a $100-a-day appointment, of meeting 10 or 12 times a year. You're willing to give up consulting contracts, potentially, and your company is willing to give up potential consulting contracts that would obviously bring your company and yourself much greater income than the $100 a day you will get serving on this commission.
You're suggesting that your company and yourself are very comfortable with that, and that if that came to it, you would give up what could potentially be a very lucrative consulting contract with a company in order to be able to serve on this commission.
Mr Agostino: I guess what I'm trying to get at is, do you see a problem with -- you declare a conflict, which is fair. The commission you sit on passes an application and then you or your company would do the work to implement that plan as a consultant to that particular company, even though it may not be in the best interests environmentally in the protection of the escarpment. Do you not see any kind of potential difficulty there in bringing those two positions together?
Ms Fraser: No, I really don't. I'd like to remind you too that our clients quite often are municipalities or government agencies and so it could be going the other way as well. So I don't see that as a problem, no.
Before I call the next intended appointee, just so we don't get into procedural problems, could I ask the three caucuses that if you haven't used up your time and you want to have the opportunity to go back perhaps at a second round, you ask at the end of that, that you reserve the balance of the time. That will make it clear in everyone's mind and then we won't get into any problems around whether you have the right to or not. It's one of those areas where the rules, as far as I know, don't actually speak directly to that, so we'll just go with it that way, if that's acceptable.
Mrs Reaney: I am going to be reading this morning. I prepared a brief background to perhaps make you more aware of how I might serve the Niagara Escarpment Commission and I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to come.
To begin with, on a personal note, I am married to a retired OPP officer and I have two grown daughters. I grew up on the Bruce Peninsula where my family operated a farm, timber business and tourist lodge. I learned at an early stage in my life the balance between nature and man and the fact that you must care for the land on which you live or the ability to live there will not exist.
As a child and on into my teenage years, I was introduced to a very special geographical area that I lived in. My family, along with the original trail blazers, worked to build and then maintain the northernmost section of the Bruce Trail. My father was the first director of the Bruce Trail in the peninsula area and our family hosted many annual meetings there.
It is worth noting also that during the centennial year, in 1967, this section of the Bruce Trail on the Niagara Escarpment hosted the Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award winners. Twenty-seven award winners from 14 countries came to the northern part of the Niagara Escarpment to hike on the Bruce Trail. Even at that date, the escarpment was viewed by the world to be something very special and I was proud to call it my home.
Continuing with an avid interest in the geology of this area and the escarpment, a new area of interest occurred in the 1970s. The area at the tip of the Niagara Escarpment and the waters off the escarpment drew scuba divers and marine interests from around the world. The provincial government at that time, and specifically the Ministry of Lands and Forests, began to secure a new park called Fathom Five Park.
As a teenager I worked as a volunteer with a working group cataloguing shipwrecks and mapping areas of the new park. During this period of time, the waters off the escarpment also became home to Canada's first underwater habitat. I had the pleasure of spending some time with Dr. Joe Maclnnis and his group looking at the waters at the edge of the escarpment.
About this period of time it occurred to many of us that if something were not done to protect these areas, serious damage could occur to the escarpment areas. As I left the area, the Niagara Escarpment Commission was just being formed.
I returned to the Bruce Peninsula seven years ago and for a time operated a bed and breakfast near Tobermory. I was constantly amazed at the clientele I had stay with me, who had come especially to see the escarpment, and I was totally surprised at the amount of international interest there was.
Along with the knowledge that so many people were visiting our area came the realization that many problems were occurring with respect to the amount of wear and tear that was happening on a day-to-day basis in the escarpment area.
Over $100 million per year is contributed to local and regional economies through tourism, due largely to the draw the Niagara Escarpment features. It has never been so important to protect this valuable asset.
An equally important concern that has always been present for so many people, including myself, who live and work on the lands on or near the escarpment has been and continues to be their ability to have their needs met.
My involvement with the chamber of commerce, community policing, Communities for Health Care, and the Ontario Northland Advisory Committee has given me much opportunity to interact with various levels of government and municipalities. I have enjoyed a good rapport and working relationship with all members.
Most of my life, and especially my professional life, I have been in the business of caring for and understanding the needs of people. Understanding lifestyle issues, how and where people live and what tools need be in place to accomplish that task have always been part of my mandate.
I feel at this time in my life I have the time to commit to the commission in the hope that I can bring to the commission my ability to listen, to gather information and to make sound constructive decisions with the objective of meeting the needs of the preservation of the escarpment and the people whose lives revolve around it.
Mrs Reaney: Certainly from my area -- I'm not as familiar with the southern Niagara Escarpment area at the moment; I certainly intend to be with ongoing issues there -- we continue to strive at all times to be sure that the escarpment is not being damaged in any way. By that I mean that Parks Canada has about 200,000 or 250,000 people travelling through the park area on the escarpment per year. There are days when the trail is so literally beaten down with people that they almost have to close it.
Mr Pouliot: You've begun to address my last question for now, which is: Do you have any opinion or thoughts regarding on the one hand, the land owners' right to do what they wish, what they want, and the government's right to protect the people? In your search for balance, for equilibrium, how do you reconcile those two?
Mrs Reaney: Well, in my personal opinion, I think I'm a good listener. I think I try to listen to all sides of the issue. If there were an issue, certainly if there were an intense issue, I would want to be able to understand it from every side. I would hope that at the end of that all 17 members of the commission would agree about the best possible circumstance, for instance, in which the area might continue. I believe land owners have rights.
My family has lived on or at the edge of the escarpment area for my whole life. My father, as you might note from my résumé, was one of the first members of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. I remember very heated public debates during the time he served. Largely, the debate surrounded land owners' fears of their rights being taken away. I don't believe anyone's rights, from any angle, need be taken away necessarily if things are put in place to safeguard.
Mr Stewart: Thank you, Mrs Reaney, for your presentation. As I listen to you and read your résumé, you have a deep understanding, I believe, of certainly a good part of the area. It goes along maybe with what Mr Pouliot was talking about, the balance between the environment and those who want to protect it and the people who want to protect their land. Unfortunately, many commissions and indeed some governments have never planned very much for the future. If I look at this area you're talking about -- not that I know it very well -- if I were to ask you what your vision of the escarpment is for the future and how you could contribute to making sure your vision happened, what do you see it being in the future?
Mrs Reaney: I believe the escarpment will be maintained, because there is a drive for all of us to conserve all lands we live on in order that our future generations, my daughters and my grandchildren, will be able to survive on this planet. I think unless the ability is there for each of us -- it doesn't matter whether we're an industry or whether we're farmers or whether we're land owners or whether we're conservationists, we all have to look at the optimum way we can conserve the planet. I think the ability is there for us to conserve and live at the same time. We're very good at sending people to the moon and doing all kinds of things. Surely we can find ways to make a balance work so that all things can survive.
Mrs Reaney: Actually, from what I know, and certainly I'm not in the park every day -- the park actually owns land adjacent to the property my family owns and I have a fair knowledge of what happens throughout the park certainly on a seasonal basis. I think they're very careful to make sure there are options they can use if they need to, say, close a section of a trail for a day if they feel that it needs it; for instance, if we had rain for three days in an area of trail, not just for the trail itself but certainly for safety reasons. We have some treacherous areas on our trails. If it rained for three days it might be quite slippery and not easily travelled. So they're pretty careful to put those safeguards in place.
Mr Stewart: Certainly I'm a great believer, when somebody has an investment in something, which it appears you have, in that you tend to be a lot more conscious of protecting it to make sure there is a future for it. So I compliment you on it.
Mr Chudleigh: Let me say how pleased I am that you've agreed to sit on the commission. A continuum and a little heritage on the commission, from the point of view of your father being one of the first commissioners, is a fine thing.
I was also impressed with your comments regarding the balance between land owners' rights and the public's rights. It's a continuing battle and has been such on the Niagara Escarpment Commission and around the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act.
The Niagara parkways is a similar type of organization and there doesn't seem to be any of that conflict between property owners and the public's rights. In fact, the Niagara Parkway is literally loved by many of the land owners in that area.
It's our goal and our hope that that same kind of symbiotic relationship between the public need and the land owners' rights can be maintained and balanced. I look forward to your decisions on the commission that will further that goal. We reserve --
I note that you have been an owner of Hidden Valley Lodge, that you've been active on the Tobermory Chamber of Commerce. Clearly tourism is an important part of how you view the use of the escarpment, am I not correct?
Mr Cullen: Bearing that in mind and bearing in mind the pressures of running a business, running a community that thrives on tourism and the nature of the applications that will come forward to the commission, because the commission will look at development permit applications, the Niagara Escarpment plan amendments, applications to sever land plans for subdivision official plans, zoning bylaws and amendments, you will be seeing more likely than not more applications to develop the escarpment.
Every time a person will come forward, they will hire the consultants. They will hire consultants to show that it's going to have a minimal impact in terms of environmental degradation, they'll hire the consultants to show that it's going to have a boon in terms of jobs, they'll hire the consultants to show that it fits with whatever Planning Act provisions and provincial guidelines are in place. So more often than not, you're going to be asked to deal with applications to, shall I use the word "enhance," mankind's enjoyment of the escarpment as opposed to preservation. You talk about trying to find this fine line. When most of the time you're dealing with applications that seek to develop the escarpment -- I've been in municipal council and I know something of how this works -- it seems you can't refuse them all, can you?
Mr Cullen: Some? Accept many? I'm looking for the balance here. The issues coming before the escarpment in terms of development applications to enhance tourism -- and earlier we had someone who was involved tangentially in the aggregate industry, they'll certainly be interested, but in your neck of the woods it's tourism and people there will want to develop the tourism abilities of your community. It only makes sense. So how do you balance this?
Mrs Reaney: I think each individual application will stand on its own. All issues will have to be discussed and whether or not that application can continue. My understanding is that before it comes to the commission, many people who have concerns, including the municipalities in the area, will have brought forth any issues they are concerned about so that before a final decision is made, many background things will occur. If there's a glaring reason why this business cannot be there because of the environmental issues, then I'm sure the commission will decide at that time that it can't be put forward.
Mr Cullen: I would be a little more comfortable in saying that there has to be a compelling reason to develop, as opposed to a glaring reason of why not. Here you have a municipality in your neck of the woods that wants to advance tourism and therefore is predisposed, really, to supporting those kinds of applications that will enhance employment in your community, that will enhance tourism for the economic activity it brings. Are you telling us it will have to be the glaring problem of the developer or is it going to have to be a compelling reason to develop? Most of the time you're going to have people saying: "Isn't this a wonderful idea? Won't you support it?"
I'm faced with the same situation in Ottawa. We have what's called the National Capital Commission's greenbelt, which was expropriated as a living memorial to the Second World War dead, but it provides as well a buffer for urban sprawl. People there want to keep it as green as possible, yet the agency that looks after it, businesses and people are all looking at this marvellous development opportunity, and it's the same situation with the escarpment. There are marvellous development opportunities on the escarpment, but every time it gets developed, you've lost something.
Mrs Reaney: Not necessarily, but sometimes there are issues surrounding -- I'm trying to give you the best example of a need right in our area for a business to occur. I could go to something as simple as whether or not a grocery store could exist at the edge of the national park for the needs of the people in the park. I think there perhaps would be a way, depending on where that grocery store existed, if it passed all kinds of municipal regulations first; if it went through all the proper applications and amendments; if it wasn't in any way, certainly other than perhaps cosmetically, going to hurt the natural environment. There may be a place where that business could exist. It may not be able to exist if it were sitting at the edge of a waterway.
You're asking me for an answer to issues that I'd first have to see the beginning paperwork on. There might be a reason why public health couldn't allow it. There might be any number of reasons why the business couldn't exist initially, before it even got to the level of the commission.
Mr Cullen: The commission is seen as a bulwark against the continual pressure for development, and as development occurs other applicants see that as precedents. If you allow a grocery store here, then why not there and then why not here? Then you have strip development and all these things come to the place. I think there is a desire in the population to not only preserve and protect the environmental areas we have but actually to enhance. In my view, having been through the municipal process, I find I would need compelling reasons to allow development. If that threshold is not met, then not here; go elsewhere.
The Vice-Chair: We proceed with the third intended appointee for this morning, Mr Sam Luckhardt. As we have done with the others, Mr Luckhardt, we will give you an opportunity to make any opening comments you have and then we will proceed to questions from the three caucuses.
Mr Sam Luckhardt: I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to speak before this committee. I consider it a distinct honour and privilege to be nominated for this important position as commissioner on the NEC.
First, a brief background on myself, and I believe you have a copy of some of my undertakings in the past. I have lived at rural route 6 Owen Sound, in Sydenham township, since 1969. Our home is approximately one kilometre from the NEC control area. I am 46 years young and married to my wife, Kathie, for 20 years, with two high school age children, Michelle and Jeffrey. We purchased the family farm corporation from my father and farm approximately 1,000 acres, of which 400 are owned. We raise Holstein heifers and keep approximately 300 to 400 for export purposes to the southern US and Mexico.
I've had numerous involvements in community affairs in the past, and in 1986 decided to take the plunge for elected office. I was elected to Sydenham council and served there for 11 years, the last three years as reeve. On township council, we dealt with and commented on numerous development control permits, severance applications and other related matters, so I do have an understanding of some of the aspects of the NEC plan. I also served on Grey county council, and I served on the land division committee for the last three years and saw at first hand the interacting of the NEC policies and also county staff and OP policies.
Mr Stewart: Thank you, Mr Luckhardt, for your presentation. As I read your background, I'd suggest that you have a lot of investment in the area. I compliment you on that. As I said to Mrs Reaney, when people have investment in an area, I think they tend to have a lot better support and control of it.
There has been some discussion this morning regarding the balance between land owners, developers and environmentalists. Certainly you are no exception to being asked the same question: How do you feel that can continue and can be done right and still be able to protect the escarpment for future generations?
Mr Luckhardt: I think, sir, it's a very valid question. It's a very delicate balancing act between protecting the environment and also having life go on as per se. I feel with the policies that have been developed and are in place at present on the NEC, the NEC control area is well protected at present. I can't say any more than that, really.
Mr Stewart: Are there any major changes that should be done that you see? Again, and I go back to what I said before, I think sometimes commissions and governments etc kind of forget that there is a future and should put the standards and the regulations into place now that will make sure there is an ongoing thing.
Mr Luckhardt: If you like to crystal-ball it, there's one thing I'd like to see somewhere in the future; I know it wouldn't happen overnight, and it might not ever happen. In my own municipality, Sydenham township, the control area in one spot is approximately five miles wide. The escarpment face itself is approximately one quarter of a mile wide. Therefore, we have land overlapped on either side of the escarpment face that is virtually locked in place and can be regarded as the same as the escarpment face. I am familiar with some of this land and it's not really different from my land as far as agricultural capabilities and as far as other capabilities also, but per se it is a marked area. The escarpment itself should be protected forever, and a certain area, but I just know in my own municipality the area is a little too wide in certain spots. If that could be looked at, that would be a wish of mine.
Mr Stewart: Because of the vastness between north and south, certainly one area is not solely the same as the other one. I guess that's one of the problems we have: You think one decision is supposed to do it for everybody. Do you foresee any great conflict, as the years go on, between the north and the south or indeed the east and the west?
Mr Luckhardt: As I look at it, I'm familiar with my own area, Grey county, and I actually used to live on the peninsula also; I know that area quite well. As far as going farther south, I'm aware of what has happened in the past and I know where the escarpment is, but I would like to have some workings on the commission before I could establish that. I'm more familiar with my own area. Grey county actually has a great area under escarpment control now.
I have a question in regard to your views on the escarpment commission. A good friend of yours publicly and a neighbour of yours, Bill Murdoch, is an individual who believes and has said in the past that the commission should possibly be scrapped or its powers reduced tremendously. Do you agree with that view?
Mr Luckhardt: As far as the NEC having too much control right now, as I said before, the escarpment should be preserved forever. The only flaw I see in it is that maybe the control area is a little big. But the exact face of the escarpment should be preserved forever, and some of the surrounding area. I'm just saying in my own township I know the area is five miles wide. The face of the escarpment does not come up in that area.
Mr Agostino: Just to follow up, I asked earlier about the commission's continuing role and the role you see for the commission. I was a little concerned that when I asked you about scrapping it you said, "Not necessarily." That seemed to be qualified. Is it safe to say that you believe the Niagara Escarpment Commission should continue operating in the manner it has been operating in the past, with the same types of controls and checks and balances that are there to protect the escarpment?
Mr Agostino: In regard to the control area, you're suggesting that right now it's much too wide, that it should have a much smaller containment. Who would it benefit if the guidelines were changed and you had a much smaller control area, in your area or other areas similar to that? Who do you think would benefit the most from that?
Mr Luckhardt: It could be a play on words, what you mean by "development." I could take that to mean that some of that area could be farmed more intensively or it could have a barn built on it. A farm is a development also, and I'm more familiar with that area. That kind of development isn't really curtailed at present, but there are onerous controls put on the property owner who tries to build an agricultural building or carry on a business.
Mr Luckhardt: I have appeared before a hearing officer, representing the township, and I have found the hearing officers to be very receptive to knowing everything, not only hearing what NEC staff have to say but also hearing what the local township would have to say or the developer or whatever. I found them very open-minded and receptive to all thoughts that are presented before them.
Mr Agostino: Do you have any concerns at all about the decision, I guess a year and half or so ago, to shift the control or the jurisdiction under the government from the Ministry of Environment to the Ministry of Natural Resources for the Niagara Escarpment? It used to be under the environment ministry, which I think was more interested in protecting, rather than natural resources, which appears to be more interested in development. Do you have any concerns on that, or do you think it was appropriate to shift it from environment to natural resources?
Mr Luckhardt: I can't really say. It was a government decision. I can see both sides of the coin, how it would be a tough decision one way or another. I can see the Ministry of the Environment's mandate there to protect the environment and also I can see the MNR side, where they are in control of parkland, so to me it isn't a big thing. I can see both sides of the coin, and I understand it was a government decision to change it.
Mr Pouliot: Welcome, Mr Luckhardt. My first question follows my friend and colleague Dominic Agostino's last question, whether you are now or have ever been a member of any political party, and you have just answered yes, you are a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
Mr Luckhardt: It's a very important designation. I understand in Ontario there are only two of them and one is the NEC. It's a world-renowned organization that has designated lands that should be preserved and environmentally protected forever. It has got a lot of press, and I agree this is a sensitive area and should be protected.
Mr Luckhardt: Yes, that would be a wish, I guess. If I ever got on there, I would be one of 17, and my understanding from when we operated council is that I was one of five and very seldom did I get my wishes.
Mr Pouliot: In 1994 the Niagara Escarpment plan lists its purpose: "to provide for the maintenance of the Niagara Escarpment and land in its vicinity substantially as a continuous natural environment, and to ensure only such development occurs as is compatible with that natural environment."
In other words, as a condition, as a criterion, it must be compatible; the focus is to protect, not to shut the door but to envisage only in the context where, first and foremost, the environment is protected. Do you agree with that statement?
Mr Cullen: Mr Luckhardt, I heard you talk earlier about farming being a form of development. I'm not going to quarrel with that. Certainly we get many applications where I've been, on municipal council, and so have you, where you've seen applications to make more intensive use of land. You said in your comments that you had been before the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Perhaps you could describe to this committee what those circumstances were.
Mr Luckhardt: No, sir. Our property is not under the NEC. As I state in my opening address, we're approximately one kilometre from the control area. Back before the area was actually sketched out in 1985, one of our farms was slated to be in there, but when the lines were drawn up -- and that's the one that's within a kilometre of the control area.
Mr Cullen: My last question deals with this notion that you believe the face should be protected but perhaps the control area should be reduced. I have to believe that you as a farmer understand the concept of an ecosystem and therefore understand that the escarpment is not just the face. Perhaps you can give us more of your thinking as to why the control area should be reduced. It went through the public debate. The lines were drawn. As a matter of fact, with the later knowledge we have today, many believe that in fact those lines should be expanded. Why do you think they should be contracted?
Mr Luckhardt: I know there is some area that's very close to my home where there are no visual features from the air that would indicate it has anything to do with the escarpment, yet it is under NEC control. I'm dealing mainly with agricultural land. I know fellow farmers who farm this land. In our conversations we speak about the depth of plowing. Of course, plowing was a big thing years ago. Now farmers have gone to more no-till. It's the big buzzword in the agriculture industry now. But when these guys were plowing years ago, they put the plow in the ground six inches and turned over the soil in the fall. In some areas that are under NEC control, the plow will only go in the ground three or four inches. The plow is riding on the escarpment.
Mr Luckhardt: But there are other areas where the plow will go in the ground a foot and it's still under NEC control. They can't plow any deeper because the tractor won't pull it, but they haven't hit the escarpment yet and there are no visual features there to indicate that it is the Niagara Escarpment itself.
Mr Cullen: Okay, I can understand that perspective, but don't you think that when we talk about supporting the ecosystem we call the escarpment there are other factors that would have to come into play? If we just measure it by the depth of the soil, I would think the lines would change everywhere. I believe more factors are at play here. Are you not familiar with these factors? Your council would have dealt with a number of applications or supported a number of applications going forward for development involving the Niagara Escarpment Commission, and you would have seen the staff reports and the arguments they would have brought forward. It's more than just the depth of soil, is it not?
Mr Luckhardt: You're correct. I was going on visual features. That's what I had mentioned. I think there are areas where it is still too wide. I think of an area like Inglis Falls on the edge of Owen Sound, the most picturesque area in our community. It is NEC and it should be. It definitely should be. It draws people there.
Mr Luckhardt: We walk around there and we have picnics there and things like that. Then, as you get out into the rural area, away from that actual escarpment -- because it is a very dominant feature. There are other areas that I feel -- and as I say, I'm only one; if I get on, I'm only one of 17.
Mr Shea: I just have one question to ask in conclusion. You might gather from the questioning of the Liberal caucus that that party is perhaps in favour of expanding the Niagara Escarpment Commission --
Mr Shea: -- and that clearly was the underlying girding of the questions. Is it your view there may be areas where in fact the escarpment might be expanded and areas where it might contract? Is the escarpment indeed a living organism that's part of the biosphere or not? Is it to be wrapped in plastic as the Liberal caucus would have you picture it now, or is it to be something very carefully managed and improved?
Mr Luckhardt: I think you hit the nail on the head there by saying it's something that should be protected. I don't know of any areas I can think of, that I know of first hand, where the control area should be expanded, but as I said before, there are some areas I know first hand that should be contracted.
Mr Shea: Let me pick up on that again. I want you to respond to the questioning being raised of you from the background of your political experience, which is considerable. Is it your sense that the position that the escarpment be contained at least as it is now and perhaps expanded would be well received by local government?
The Vice-Chair: We proceed now to the next intended appointee, J. Donald Sheppard, intended appointee as member and vice-chair of the Social Assistance Review Board. Mr Sheppard, welcome to the committee, sir.
Mr J. Donald Sheppard: I would like to thank the members of the committee for the opportunity to appear before you today and I'm honoured to be considered for an appointment to the Social Assistance Review Board.
I have extensive union experience, and over the past 12 years have served the members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union in several different capacities. I have been heavily involved in wage, working conditions and benefit negotiations, as well as the mediation process. I've had the opportunity to assist lawyers in the preparation of both defence and prosecution cases involving labour conflicts, and represented OPSEU members at hearings during various steps of the grievance process, as well as labour tribunals. I also have had extensive experience in researching and interpreting legislation and case law.
I believe my past experience makes me well qualified for the position and I look forward to the chance to apply this experience to the board, and towards that end, to answering any questions the committee may have.
Mr Agostino: I am pleased Mr Sheppard is here. I am certainly familiar with Mr Sheppard. I want to preface the fact that the concerns I will express today, and very strongly, are not a personal reflection on Mr Sheppard but simply on the appointment and the process government uses for appointments.
Mr Agostino: A couple of points here. The position is a full-time position, I believe, and it pays in the $60,000 or $70,000 range. As well, during the civil service strike a couple of years ago, in your position as president of the local you represented, did you criticize your colleagues or your fellow co-strikers in view of the strike and the action they had taken?
Mr Agostino: The Social Assistance Review Board, of course, is going to be a quasi-judicial body that is to review applications. Do you not see a conflict in the sense that this government ran very strongly on an anti-welfare sentiment, ran very strongly with a Premier who believed that welfare recipients were bums and should be kicked in the butt and put in their place? Do you not believe that view, which was expressed by your Premier and your government, is going to influence your decision-making, and the negative view that your government and your colleagues see of welfare recipients in Ontario? Do you see that it's going to slant the way you judge these individuals when they come before the board?
Mr Sheppard: I believe that's your personal interpretation of what we campaigned on, but in truthfulness, we campaigned on getting people back to work and getting them off welfare and giving them the dignity of having a job.
Mr Agostino: Can you tell me, in your background or in the work you've done, what work you have done in relation to social assistance review or what would give you qualifications from your background knowledge, past work history or your expertise in the social services field? Can you explain where that would come from?
Mr Sheppard: Actually, my expertise comes from appearing and being involved in tribunals in the labour field, not in the social assistance field. The tribunals are very similar and I do have experience in that sense.
Mr Agostino: Thousands of civil servants have lost their jobs, 10,000-plus in this province, and will continue to lose their jobs under this government's agenda. You're one of the fortunate ones who's going to lose his job but because you are connected to this government, because you have friends in the government, because you ran for this government, they're going to take care of it. Do you see that as an unfair situation for the thousands and thousands of other civil servants across Ontario who have lost their jobs but weren't fortunate enough to be a Tory candidate and will not get appointed to a $60,000 or $70,000-a-year job?
Mr Sheppard: First of all, there haven't been thousands and thousands of civil servants lose their jobs; there have been thousands of positions that have disappeared, mostly through attrition and that sort of thing. There are only a few hundred people who actually have been laid off. Most people have been placed in the government. As a union president, I know that. Secondly, I would hope that with my qualifications any government of the day would consider me for this position.
Mr Agostino: Just to wrap up, I do question very much -- I would think every other labour leader in this province will question your fact that only a few hundred people have lost their jobs and are going to tell you that number is much greater and is into the thousands and not into the hundreds.
You don't see as a problem the fact that it will be perceived that you're being favoured or being given special treatment as a result of the fact -- is it a coincidence that you were a Tory candidate, that you're a riding president, that your wife works at Queen's Park, that you have a long history with the Conservative Party and that your job's going to be eliminated and you're now being recommended for this appointment? You weren't recommended a year ago, two years ago; you're being recommended just before the axe comes down.
I understand that. I understand your interest is to try to do the best you can for yourself and your family. But do you not see it clearly as a message to the civil service that we have two standards and two ways that we treat people? If you're our friends and if you ran for us and worked for us, we're going to take care of you. If you're not, it's tough luck, buddy, you're out the door because government has to get smaller and we have to continue to pay for the tax cut. Do you not see this double standard? Do you not see it as a message it sends out across Ontario that if you're connected with this government, you're okay and taken care of; if you're not, you're basically screwed.
Mr Sheppard: No, I don't see it as a double standard at all. I stayed with my union local. I've been interested in this position for a few years but I stayed with my union local to make sure that people in the local were placed, and most of them were taken over by the Legislative Assembly. It was only then, when everyone was looked after, that I pursued my own interests. I applied for this position. I went for an interview and I'm very proud to have the opportunity to be here today to maybe land this position.
Mr Pouliot: To welfare recipients, general assistance recipients, the less fortunate, the marginalized, all of us except for sometimes a spouse or circumstances, a support system that separates us -- no one's immune -- for those, Mike Harris is seen as the great Satan, the closest thing to evil.
Mr Pouliot: If I feel that I was not well treated as a citizen, if you wish, I will go to the review board, and the review board, I would expect, would operate at arm's length, without prejudice, with no opinion. It's quasi. So with respect, I would caution you not to be so facile with an opinion. You don't have an opinion. The fact that you were a candidate, sir, to us matters little. We respect the integrity and the power of a government, but where I would have some difficulties is by virtue, on account, because someone agrees with something, he feels that it is necessary to bring that as a philosophy, as an approach, because this is judgement and you must completely wash your hands.
What experience will you bring forward that will qualify you to be a member and possibly the vice-chair of the review board? The review board is sort of a last resort for the marginalized, for people who come to you, the board, and say: "Look at my situation. Don't look at the policies of the government. It's not the mandate of the review board."
Mr Sheppard: I would bring the experience, the fairness that I've had through my union activities and representing people. If I am successful with this appointment, when I make a decision on the board it will be strictly based on legislation, not on my past experiences with the party. It will be strictly based on the legislation. In my union experience, when you represent someone in the union, you do it by the book. You may know that person is guilty as sin, but you still represent them to the best of your ability by the book. This is what I would do if I'm successful with this appointment: go by the legislation, go by the rules.
Mr Pouliot: Mr Sheppard, I'll be candid with you. I'm wrong so often, let's keep that in mind; it's just an opinion. You and I are similar and yet opposite, but I believe we were looking for the same port, for the same destination, but we took different routes. I too was a union representative. I negotiated no less than 10 collective agreements yesteryear. I was strike director for two work stoppages. I worked 20 years in a mine in northwestern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. Maybe our understanding is the result of work stoppages. That's where we part.
I never had a dream where, as a union, pleading that the qualifications that would bring me to the board are those of being a union representative. Up till then there's no problem. I think it's a world of experience, except I chose to run for the New Democrats. I respect you and I respect what you are saying. You chose to run for the party of others, if you're a union member, but I'm sure you will sleep well.
Those people, they're for the others. You, the assistance review board? I would be scared to death if I was marginalized, if I was destitute or between jobs and had to go on the dole, on welfare. I would be more than devastated. But there again, if I were one of those, when I would meet people like you I would say little. I would know where my lot is, where my lot resides, and I would begin to stoop as I leave the hall with no chance of appeal.
Please, please -- they will flex their majority muscle perhaps but that's my conclusion. You have no opinion when a citizen comes to you. You judge on the facts and that's what the review board says. That's the sole mandate. It doesn't matter what Mike Harris, McGuinty or Hampton says.
Mr Sheppard: Labour tribunals, arbitration boards, that sort of thing. When someone puts in a grievance, I would represent them up until the arbitration hearing, where I would help the lawyers with their defence or prosecution, as it may be.
Mr Stewart: Mr Sheppard, I have a little difficulty when I listen to people attack the integrity of people. I have a little difficulty with that and I guess maybe indirectly I'm a little ashamed of what I heard here this morning because it appears to me that unless you happen to be a member of another party, you can't make any decisions that they're going to be happy with.
Mr Cullen: I've been in a similar union position representing my local and it seems to me from what you've told us that you've appeared before these tribunals as an advocate for your membership. Is that not correct?
Mr Cullen: That, coupled with the fact that you campaigned on the Progressive Conservative platform, and you've said you fully agree -- in that context you were an advocate for that policy position, were you not?
Mr Cullen: So here you are. You say with your qualifications "any government would appoint me to this tribunal as an advocate in previous situations." How can you say, therefore, that a government that we would head or that the NDP would head would find the kind of issues that you have advocated as qualifications for this kind of board?
Mr Cullen: As an advocate, not as someone who judges on the basis of facts. You were there to convince the tribunal that your side was right. I'm a former regional councillor. I've dealt with social assistance cases; people fall between the cracks and we send them up to the board. They're trying to deal with something that the system doesn't meet and you're there to judge those facts, but your experience has been as an advocate saying, "No, we should be taking people off the rolls."
We had the chair of the Social Assistance Review Board before us and she made it very clear to us her job was simply to interpret the legislation. You're here as a result of being an advocate. How can you separate these things?
Mr Sheppard: Like I said, I would hope that any of the three parties who may be in power would consider my qualifications for this. I can reiterate the point that if I am appointed to this board, I would only make my decisions on the legislation and not on any previous campaigning that I've done for the Conservative Party.
Mr Agostino: However, you are not going to be resigning but taking a secondment, so if a future government decides for whatever reason that your appointment is not to be renewed, you would be able to go back to the job or a similar position that you had here at Queen's Park.
The Vice-Chair: Committee members, we are now scheduled to have a break. Actually, we are ahead of schedule, so one option would be, if you want, to deal at this point with concurrences of the folks we've had until now, or we could simply deal with all of that after the break.
Mr Cullen: Mr Chairman, as you can tell from our comments, the difficulty is that we are dealing with a candidate who certainly has the academic background and experience for the position but is going to have to deal with development applications from people who either have been or potentially will be clients.
When we asked about the potential conflict of interest, the candidate initially said she didn't see any problem, then said she would deal on a case-by-case basis. Quite frankly, when we're dealing with a situation like this, it's not satisfactory just to hope that on a case-by-case basis the right decision might be made.
All the commission does -- it doesn't receive any applications to enlarge or to take away development rights. It always sees applications that seek to develop some part of the escarpment. The pressure is always on. Quite frankly, we're dealing with an appointment to a commission that is there to protect the public interest, so when we have a candidate whose business it is to deal with clients who from time to time will be coming forward to make application before the commission, as we heard in the candidate's own words -- in fact, I think it was Mr Chudleigh who commented about Durham Aggregates -- it creates the potential for conflict. It is a problem, a problem that, sadly, has to be addressed.
The Vice-Chair: That's right. Because of Mr Laughren's resignation from the Legislature and consequently from the committee, the New Democratic caucus representation is down to one. I'm it, but I'm in the chair, so you have a voice but no vote.
Jacquelyn Fraser certainly convinced me that there was no possibility of conflict. In my opinion, she was very much aware, presented well, had a hands-on definition and the confidence of one role vis-à-vis another, and concluded by saying it is not the order of the day, that it doesn't happen on every issue. In fact, it was sporadic, from time to time; you would have to look at the possibility of conflict and undergo the appropriate scrutiny.
Mr Bert Johnson: I wanted just to put a few remarks on the record, if I could. One was that I found Jacquelyn Fraser well qualified and I found her eager and interested. Yes, she has represented developers in the past, if we put Durham Aggregates into it, but I don't see any more conflict in that sort of representation than if she had, for instance, represented Greenpeace in the same sort of area in her past.
Mr Agostino: On a point of order, Mr Chair, if it can be done: In view of the special circumstances, with the resignation and the gap, would it be appropriate -- maybe the clerk can answer -- to move unanimous consent to allow the NDP to have a vote?
Mr Cullen: I'm not at all content to support a nomination that would, in the issue of the control areas, the areas the Niagara Escarpment Commission has jurisdiction over, advocate that those indeed be contracted. We know -- we even heard from the earlier applicant we just approved -- that there's tremendous pressure on the Niagara Escarpment in terms of tourism for development purposes, and it's clear to us that in a province that has a burgeoning population and increasing pressures for economic opportunity, all our environmental areas are under severe stress.
The purpose of the Niagara Escarpment Commission is to interpret and apply the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act. In that act are the rules to safeguard against the undue exploitation of that natural feature. It's not simply protecting the face. Anyone who understands what planning is about these days understands that we're also dealing, in terms of environmental areas, with the ability to preserve it as an ecosystem.
I'm not suggesting today that we may want to expand the control areas, although I would be very interested in hearing from the larger community on those issues. In my own experience in Ottawa-Carleton -- we've gone through an official plan review, and I doubt very much that the citizens of Ottawa-Carleton are much different from the citizens of the rest of Ontario. As we learned from the Lands for Life exercise, people in Ontario not only want to preserve the environmental areas we have today but want to enhance them, want to improve them. That kind of public debate I would welcome.
But for the current instance, when we're dealing with development applications that seek to introduce new uses in the escarpment and we have an applicant who believes it's too big as it is, then right away we are introducing a bias into the workings of the commission that runs against the public interest as set out by legislation -- legislation, I may add, that was introduced and passed by a government of a similar stripe lo these many years ago. So I think there's a conflict here in what the government is proposing in terms of the intent of the act and I therefore don't think it should be supported.
Mr Pouliot: On the nominee, Sam Luckhardt, I'll be quite candid. Twice it was mentioned, "I will be one of 17." I would feel immensely more comfortable, after listening to Mr Luckhardt, if, from an ecological point of view, he were to occupy a similar function in the great riding of Lake Nipigon, where we measure space, vastness on a different scale. You know that the riding I have had the honour of representing for the past 13 years, Lake Nipigon, the largest body of fresh water beyond the Great Lakes -- you know the vastness, the grandeur of Lake Superior, and we go all the way to Hudson Bay, including the northernmost communities in the province of Ontario. Simply put, we're a thousand miles long, so Sam could play a bit more there. But when we're talking about the Niagara Escarpment and the desire to narrow the protected area, I for one am philosophically quite concerned. You are more fragile; there is not as much land diversity present as in our special part of Ontario.
I want to wish Mme Fraser and Mme Reaney quite well. Please be vigilant and be at your post should -- and it looks that way -- Sam Luckhardt, entrepreneur, farmer extraordinaire, with a vision to expansion, be appointed as one of your colleagues.
Mr Grimmett: I just want to say that I was impressed by Mr Luckhardt's responses to many difficult questions that I thought he received. I'm impressed by his background. I think the need for balance on the commission needs to be remembered. He brings to the commission, if he's successful, not only a background in municipal politics that clearly went on for a long time but also in agriculture, where he has been involved with a number of organizations that would certainly have enhanced his expertise, and I think that expertise will be very useful on the commission.
Mr Agostino: Obviously, I have a great deal of concern with this appointment. As I said earlier, Mr Sheppard is a nice man. I know him, I know him well -- he ran against me in Hamilton East -- and I certainly know he did a good job in his capacity here at Queen's Park. Again, the concern is the shift on that particular board. This is the same board that a former Tory candidate in Thunder Bay, Evelyn Dodds, was appointed to by this government and continues to be a member of. You are stacking the Social Assistance Review Board with individuals who philosophically, politically and very openly agree with all the views of this government.
I think we're missing the point, that people go to this board once they've fallen through the cracks, once the government structure has failed them. Once the reviews and the supervisors and everyone else at the social services level has not been able to resolve their problems they go to this board, and now people are faced with the prospect of going to this board with individuals who, lock and stock, buy into the government agenda. That is absolutely devastating to individuals who would have to go to this board and think they are going to get a fair hearing.
My colleagues think it's funny. I don't think you've run into welfare recipients in the sense that you knew one, but very clearly that is the mentality that is being set here; that is the tone that is being set. You might as well send a message out to welfare recipients: "Don't even bother going to the board, because you're going to get nailed, you're going to get rejected."
Very clearly, no one is suggesting you appoint individuals who are not political. I am not naïve enough to believe that is the case. But there is appropriateness of appointments, even of political appointments. Clearly, in view of the nature of this board and the political views of the individuals you are appointing to this board, you are slanting the deck very heavily against welfare recipients. It is blatant political patronage at work here. This gentleman would not be in front of us had he not been a Tory candidate. Very frankly, this gentleman would not have been in front of us had we not the possibility of the position being eliminated.
I think it's a very dangerous message you're sending. You're sending a message very clearly to the civil service and to other individuals who are affected here that there's a double standard. But more dangerously and more importantly, you are setting a very dangerous precedent for the Social Assistance Review Board. You are stacking the board with individuals who clearly buy into the anti-welfare agenda of this government and are basically shutting the door on the possibility of any recipients who come forward. Frankly, I wouldn't want to go in front of Evelyn Dodds or Mr Sheppard if I was a welfare recipient, because I know what the answer would be: "Get out the door. The Common Sense Revolution says, `We'll take care of you.'"
This is wrong, and I believe this government should withdraw its appointment. If there is some other way you want to take care of Mr Sheppard, do that, but I think this particular appointment is wrong. It sends out a message that I think is dangerous for Ontarians and for welfare recipients and frankly for the civil service.
Mr Pouliot: I am trying to be as non-partisan as I possibly can be, but there is a mountain of evidence. The spouse works full-time on the political staff -- not with the ministry, but on the political staff. The candidate, the nominee, ran in the last federal election for the government of the day. A cynic would perhaps be encouraged to term this, Mr Chair, as the ultimate in political pork-barrelling, that the time to pay back has arrived. You do me a service -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge -- and let pecunia, the thirty pieces of silver, nowadays between $70,000 and $80,000 a year, be the reward for having been one of us.
It wouldn't be so bad perhaps if you weren't to meticulously look at the words, and they are a matter of record: "Yes, I do agree with everything that the Mike Harris government says and does, but I'm applying to be vice-chair of the Social Assistance Review Board, the less fortunate, the most vulnerable in our society. Well, I'm not applying to be a member of the board; I'm applying to be a commissar."
I can almost hear a click of the heels, and I choose my words rather carefully. This is beyond the obscene; this is porcine in terms of appointment. You must suit, slot the candidates for the job to which they are entitled. This is the public domain. Our society must reflect by way of appointment the street, what's out there: the most fortunate -- us -- and the less fortunate.
The timing is something else. Next it will be other friends and acquaintances, friends of friends and others. I have some difficulties because of this appointment, but I understand the privilege of a majority muscle in our system.
Mr Bert Johnson: Mr Chair, I have some comments I would like to add to the record about this applicant, because we have heard some very outrageous comments. One was on the particular background that would lead to this appointment, and I suggest that if Mr Agostino has had a great deal of problem with a person's background on that, he probably would have already made those opinions known to his federal chief, the Prime Minister of Canada. The pork-barrelling, as Mr Pouliot might refer to it, is not evident in this at all.
This position asks for enactment of a board for government policy. The legislation is there. It's not to make the policy; it's to enact it. I found this applicant knowledgeable, I found him sincere, I found he was experienced, and I'm quite willing to support his nomination to this position.
The Vice-Chair: I invite Mr John Morrison to come to the table. Welcome, Mr Morrison. We'll give you an opportunity to make any opening comments you might want to make and then we'll go around, with the three caucuses being given an opportunity to ask you some questions.
Mr John Morrison: I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the committee. This is actually the second time I've had occasion to experience this. I've been a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board for the past six and a half years, and in 1995 I was called to appear before the standing committee in Ottawa on immigration. I was nervous then; I'm nervous now. I think the same butterflies that were with me on that day have reappeared. I have prepared some notes to keep me on track and not waste too much of your time.
As I said, I've been a member of the board for six and a half years. It's a tribunal that hears claims of people who are claiming to be convention refugees. It's a quasi-judicial tribunal. I was appointed in 1991 for a term of one year. On the recommendation of the IRB, I was reappointed in 1992. After the change of government in 1993, I was subsequently reappointed in 1994 and in 1996 by the present government on the recommendation of the Immigration and Refugee Board and the minister's advisory committee on appointments.
During my time at the IRB, I have tried to guide myself on the principles of impartiality and fairness. I've certainly learned a lot about the world, I've learned a lot about people and I think I've gained an appreciation of the importance of social assistance and what it means to individuals. Many of the people, if not most of the people, who come before me are receiving some sort of social assistance benefit from the province of Ontario and the Canadian government and they are very much appreciative of that. They often come from desperate situations where there is no such assistance in their home country other than perhaps that which is provided by the local church or, if they're lucky, a non-governmental organization.
I've developed a number of abilities during the six and a half years which include the ability to understand, interpret and apply complex legislation and complex jurisprudence. I have the ability to conduct hearings impartially and fairly and in an expeditious manner, taking into account the particular circumstances of the person before me, including when they appear without legal representation, which is a whole new set of circumstances you have to deal with.
I'm able to focus my hearings on those issues that are determinative of the claim, so that we don't spend a lot of time on extraneous issues that have no bearing, and maintain effective control over the proceedings. I'm also able to assess great amounts of evidence and give weight to the evidence that is pertinent to the issue before me and the particular circumstances of the person concerned. Finally, I am able to formulate reasoned decisions based on the evidence that's before me and to give cogent reasons for that decision either orally or in writing.
Just before I finish, I'd like to draw your attention to page 2 of my résumé, which refers to some of the additional responsibilities I took on as a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. I believe these indicate the energy and commitment I've brought to my position on that board. They also reflect the confidence and high regard those at the Immigration and Refugee Board hold for my abilities and the competence with which I've carried out my responsibilities, including being geographic team leader and all that entails, as outlined there, as well as participating in the training of other members on legal issues that have arisen through decisions of the federal court of Canada and at times the Supreme Court of Canada, and also acting as project manager of the task force that was established in 1995 to develop rules and practices for enhanced information gathering and to redefine the role of the tribunal member and the hearing officer and the relationship between those roles.
I'm proud of the work I've done at the Immigration and Refugee Board as a tribunal member, and I appreciate the opportunity I've had to serve Canadians. I look forward now to serving the people of Ontario as a member of the Social Assistance Review Board, with your concurrence.
You have elected to cite a valid parallel between the refugee board and the tenure you are seeking with the provincial review board for general assistance. Are you cognizant of the workload as to one vis-à-vis the other? How would they compare, in your experience?
Mr Morrison: My experience, the way I've treated my position on the Immigration and Refugee Board, is that it is not a 9-to-5 job. I realized that from the day I started. At times I've worked seven days a week. I'm not complaining about that. I understand that the workload on the Social Assistance Review Board is also very heavy, with a large number of hearings and a large number of decisions that have to be written. We would not see as many hearings on the Immigration and Refugee Board, but they would tend to last longer and possibly be somewhat more complex or deal with a different set of issues. But I'm known as a producer on the Immigration and Refugee Board, as a very productive member.
Mr Pouliot: You certainly come well armed and well prepared. However, Mr Morrison, you did mention that there was a change of government and yet you were reappointed. From your tone, as a matter of information, you struck me as almost apolitical in this context. You stressed issues and research, documentation, substance, and that any political affiliation would be just mere coincidence or incidental. You are oblivious to most of that, are you not?
Mr Morrison: It would certainly have no relevance whatsoever to the performance of my duties. When I enter the hearing room, I enter there as somebody who is going to consider the evidence that's placed before me.
Mr Pouliot: I'm impressed with your presentation. If I was a member of the majority, it is people like you, because of what you have told us -- I would be honoured to support your appointment. I'll be quite candid about it. It's exactly, in a non-partisan way, what the people of Ontario deserve.
Mr Grimmett: Mr Morrison, I want to commend you for putting your name forward. I see from your résumé that you've got a fair bit of detail about your time spent on the Immigration and Refugee Board. What did you do before that?
Mr Morrison: Before that I was a management and communications consultant working for private sector and public sector clients providing management consultant services, communications services, public relations services. Prior to that I worked for 11 years for an insurance company in a wide variety of jobs, including human resource management, systems development, public relations and marketing.
Mr Grimmett: When you were with the Immigration and Refugee Board, were you ever involved in any case management projects? It's seems to be quite popular these days for these kinds of tribunals to set up case management systems.
Mr Morrison: I have been involved in that. The 1995 task force experience led to a whole restructuring as to how the Immigration and Refugee Board conducted its business. So I was quite naturally involved in designing how claims would be handled from an administrative point of view on referral to the Immigration and Refugee Board.
After the completion of the task force work in September 1995, I continued to act as a -- I hesitate to say the word "advisory," but I continued to act with the deputy chair in the further development and implementation of the model that we put forward. As you'll see on the résumé, that also involved working with staff members in developing procedures and forms.
Mr Grimmett: I asked the question because I've had the opportunity, since I became a member, to meet with a number of chairs of provincial bodies. I was impressed with your comment that you're aware of the need to make decisions in a timely fashion and be prepared to present them orally or in written fashion. I've been told by those chairs that that is a characteristic they like to see in members on these tribunals.
Mr Morrison: Yes, they had and they do have backlog problems. I don't feel very comfortable commenting on what's happening at the Immigration and Refugee Board because I still am a member and I'm bound by certain codes of conduct, so if I'm not specific, please forgive me.
Just from a human point of view, timely decisions are important because it's important to the person concerned that they find out what the answer is in an expeditious and timely fashion, aside from the administrative problems that it causes.
First of all, you talk about the timing, which I think is extremely important. As we look at the numbers that continue to rise, the number of cases that come before the review board over the last three or four years particularly, there's been a sharp increase in individuals who have come forward. Obviously the issue of timely decisions as the numbers go up is extremely important.
I want to ask you about that balance. Normally, when someone comes to that level already at the review board, from a legislative policy point of view that case has been reviewed to death in the sense of the worker, the supervisor, up to the commissioner having looked at that particular case. So from a legislative point of view it probably fits into the criteria as to the reason why the person has been denied social assistance benefits and so on.
Do you see your role as a vice-chair of this commission to not only look at the legislation but to also apply a little bit of common sense, and I don't mean political common sense, and some sort of approach that applies some compassion and understanding as to, "Why is this person in front of us, and is there a way that government can help this individual, rather than a strictly very narrow, definite application of the legislation?"
I think if you simply apply the legislation there, chances are that 99.9% of the time the case will be rejected. Would you see some flexibility, some role for an adjudicator to go beyond simply the strict legislative mandate that is in front of that case?
Mr Morrison: I'm at somewhat of a disadvantage because I'm not completely conversant on what discretion is available to a member, but I see the role as providing the applicant with a complete opportunity to present their case. But first of all, my role is to let them know what's expected of them, what the case is that they have to meet. It's a simple principle of natural justice, but it's an important one to follow, and it doesn't end at the beginning of the hearing. It continues throughout the hearing so that they know exactly what they're facing and what they have to overcome, if anything.
I have talked to colleagues who have served on the Social Assistance Review Board, and there are a number of them who have experienced certain cases where they have actually given the opportunity for the municipality and the applicant to solve their differences before the hearing begins and have been quite successful in doing that. So I think there may be some opportunities for what you say.
Mr Agostino: Just quickly, along the same lines as my colleague Mr Pouliot, at the same time I very much think the appointment in front of us is a very good one. Again, we may disagree on particular appointments, but when the good ones come forward as well, I think credit should be given. In this case, this gentleman appears to have the qualifications and the expertise. I think it is refreshing to have individuals such as yourself, and I am pleased that you are here.
Mr Cullen: Thank you, Mr Morrison, for applying for this position. I share my colleagues' comments here. Certainly as I read your résumé, it seems you are extremely well qualified for this position. How did you find out about this, may I ask?
Mr Cullen: Former colleagues, okay. We dealt earlier with an applicant for this board who was a Conservative candidate, president of a Conservative riding association and still active in the party, and we're about to deal with another candidate for this board who also was a Conservative candidate and active in the Conservative Party. May I ask you if you have been a candidate or have been active in the Conservative Party?
Mr Morrison: I have not been a candidate. I have been active in the past in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and of Ontario. I have not been for the past six and a half years, as it's precluded by the code of conduct, which I understand is the case in Ontario under the Ontario legislation as well.
The Vice-Chair: I call next Mr Douglas Searle Franklin Collins. Mr Collins, welcome to the committee. We'll give you also an opportunity to make any opening comments you might have, and then we'll proceed with questions, starting with the government side.
Mr Douglas Collins: I would like to thank the committee for having me here today. Just as a brief introduction, as you will see from my résumé, I am currently a program supervisor with the Ministry of Community and Social Services. I work in the Ottawa area office child care unit. Half my time is spent doing systems and program management with the child care agencies in Renfrew county, and the other half is spent managing the child care wage subsidy system for our catchment area, which covers eight counties from Cornwall to Pembroke.
I was born and raised in Thunder Bay and have spent the last 18 years in Nepean, in the Ottawa-Carleton area. I received a bachelor of arts degree from Lakehead University in psychology and sociology. I did one year of post-graduate studies in speech pathology and audiology at the faculty of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Toronto.
I was a city councillor in Nepean from 1991 to 1997. While on council I chaired two major portfolios. I was the chairman of planning and economic development for the city of Nepean and the public library board.
The position for which I'm being reviewed here today offers me a great opportunity to utilize my social services and government experience which I have gathered in my various positions over the past 30 years.
My strong background in the area of social services and public service administration, my experience in interpreting and applying legislation, my familiarity with the administrative systems in Ontario, coupled with my sense of fairness and professional integrity, provide me with the skill base I believe is necessary to undertake this task as a member and the vice-chair of the Social Assistance Review Board.
Mr Collins: It was of interest to me. I've known of the social services tribunal that has existed and I ran for mayor of the city of Nepean and wasn't successful, and had some time and decided I would take a change in what I was doing.
Mr Cullen: I'd like to welcome Doug to this committee. Mr Collins, in your extensive résumé here where you've described both your employment and municipal and community experience -- perhaps you could confirm to the committee those salient points that this committee is always interested in, in that you were a Conservative candidate in the provincial election in 1995 in Nepean and a candidate for the Conservative federal nomination in Nepean-Carleton.
I'm very much interested. I've reviewed your experience here, and I understood in your response to the government side that you would be taking a leave of absence from your current employment, which is with the Ministry of Community and Social Services. There are two aspects that concern me. One is, how would you deal with those cases that you've had some experience with in your current job as they go before you in the Social Assistance Review Board? Would you not view that as a conflict of interest? Would you not have to disassociate yourself from those cases?
Mr Collins: I don't think I'd be in any greater conflict of interest than, for example, a lawyer who was elevated to a judge's position who would thereafter have to hear cases presented by their former law firm.
Mr Collins: As a career public service employee I've never worked in the income maintenance service or the direct service division of the ministry, nor have I really, in my past 24 years, had a great involvement with that section. As you know, the ministry is divided into --
Mr Cullen: Indeed, moving from a government employee who is there to enact the government policies to a tribunal which therefore must adjudicate the cases that are brought before it and interpreted, interpret in an impartial manner government policies. In my opinion, if you have had a previous experience with an applicant because of their involvement with subsidized child care spaces, I would personally view that as a conflict of interest. But you yourself, being an experienced municipal politician and being fully aware of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, would be in a position where you are interpreting government policies, Ministry of Community and Social Services policies as enunciated by the minister, yet expecting to be able to go back to that minister's employment. What is your view of that in terms of conflict of interest under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act? That would be a conflict of interest.
Mr Cullen: Come, come, Mr Collins. You've had situations where you've declared conflict of interest at the city of Nepean because you were an employee of the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Mr Cullen: But anyone whose employer had a case before an adjudicative body, that employee holding that adjudicative position would, under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, declare that conflict of interest.
Mr Cullen: But the principle is clear. Surely you acknowledge the principle, and if you were an employee of an agency coming before an adjudicative tribunal, you as an employee and as a member of that adjudicative tribunal would have to declare a conflict of interest. That's clear under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, is it not?
Mr Collins: It is if you are in a conflict, and I will not be in a conflict as a person who has taken a leave of absence from the ministry. As you know, the leave of absence from the public service policy says that you can take a leave of absence to run for a political office, and when you are on a leave of absence you therefore can speak on public policy. Up until then you cannot under the Public Service Act, and really, once you've taken the leave of absence, you are out of conflict.
Mr Cullen: Having gone through that myself, having been a former public servant and having taken that route -- you and I also know that upon election we are deemed to have resigned from the public service.
Mr Cullen: Here is a situation where you're going to be appointed to a role where you are interpreting ministerial policy, yet you hope to regain your position in the ministry at the end of your term. Now, here's a situation where you're going to be judging on the work of your peers, your fellow managers in the area office, their decisions on the cases in the community that you have experience in, in dealing with the work you've done for the Ottawa-Carleton area as well as the larger area you described. So these issues are going to come forward, you're going to know the people on the other side; you're going to have a previous working relationship with the other side which you hope to maintain after your appointment. Is that not a conflict of interest?
Mr Collins: Not at all, because of my professional background. What you do is you listen to the cases and you make the decision based on the information that's before you. It has nothing at all to do with who is presenting from the Ottawa area office or in another case from a municipality. It really has nothing at all to do with that. What you're doing is you are listening to the case that is presented and you are weighing the evidence that is being brought before you. It really has nothing to do with the individuals on the other side of the table, nothing at all to do with that.
Mr Cullen: Mr Collins, you are telling this committee that after 20 years of working for the ministry, 20 years of following the minister's direction in terms of implementing policy, when you go to an adjudicative body that is supposed to interpret those policies and you hope to gain employment afterwards, at the end of your term, that is simply not a conflict of interest.
Mr Collins: I was just going to say, if you look at the job of a public service employee, they do not set the policy; they interpret the policy. If you look at the job of the tribunal, they do not set the policy; what they do is they interpret the policy and apply it to the individual.
Mr Pouliot: I need your help, Mr Collins, and if at times I have some difficulties in articulating or expressing, again I will need your help. You mentioned in the form of an answer that you had been a candidate for the Progressive Conservatives.
Mr Pouliot: I live 400 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. You possess good judgement. If you were to run as a Progressive Conservative in Nepean, that would present one with perhaps more opportunities than the great northwest where we reside. So you would know the difference between Manitouwadge and Manitoulin.
Mr Collins: Well, 24 years with the public service, but if you look at my work with the Oshawa and District Association for Community Living, I was their residential director for three and a half years. Then, before that, I worked for N.M. Paterson and Sons Ltd, a steamship company, but they were very much into community services and I did a lot of work with travelling youth and youth hostels in Fort William. As a matter of fact, Lyn McLeod and I sat on a committee together in Fort William 30 years ago.
Mr Collins, 24 years and you would be seeking a leave of absence. I'm not imputing motive and please forgive me for the background, because you get to be the influence of the milieu. Since this morning we've had a parade, a litany of hacks, of people who evaluate better under the cover of darkness. So now they come out of their bag, see things and say: "Well, I met my main man. I did you good. Remember, if friends come calling, I want an appointment."
Mr Collins: But I can't access the pension, because the 80 factor ends in the year 2000, this appointment doesn't end until the year 2001. Therefore, the next factor that comes in is the 90 factor. I'm short, even on an appointment, to get the 90 factor.
Mr Pouliot: You would have to pay a small penalty, but look at it this way: With respect, Mr Collins, you cannot access it, but in the meantime Revenue Canada won't come calling at your door, because you'll be getting between $70,000 and $80,000.
What concerns me a great deal, because I heard the Premier -- it's so vivid, it could have been said this morning. You see, you have a civil service tenure. That's not a cross to bear; it's something you're proud of and you bring it forth in your application.
Mr Pouliot: We have 8.5% unemployment here, good capable people like yourself. You go from there, you keep contributing to your pension. In fact, you take a leave of absence. Then you serve three years as your tenure, for which you get between $70,000 and $80,000 per year. The Liberals are concerned, rightly so, my friends, colleagues, about conflict of interest. I'm concerned about the proximity of the two tenures, that the bridging is done so easily that it's almost seamless. I have some difficulty with that, not because of you but because of the closeness; it is an amicable arrangement. I'm not imputing motive. But answering conflict, you've almost mentioned that at the municipal level you stand to benefit by virtue of your tenure. But perception of conflict and the fact that you can go from one and you can -- if I may be so bold, it gives the perception of double-dipping. The people out there, the great jury out there, would have some difficulties. I forgive you for having been a candidate for the party of the right.
Mr Collins: No. Virtually what happens is that you end your employment on the leave of absence. It's a leave of absence without pay and benefits. They will then consider it in three years. A variety of things can happen in three years. I could leave.
Mr Agostino: I just want to go back to that. You're going to be dealing with, again, Comsoc -- single parents, children and so on. You would be there sitting and possibly having to make judgements against your employer that is holding that position for you. Your employer still holds that position, you still receive the benefits outside of salary and so on as an employee of Comsoc, and you would be sitting there in judgement and possibly ruling against the ministry that employs you. Either way you fall on decisions, it opens you to -- if you fall in favour of Comsoc, you could be accused of basically just siding with the people who employ you; and if you're on the other side, it could also be seen as going against your employer.
Mr Collins: Not necessarily. As professional civil servants, we do that all the time: We make decisions. For example, Mr Cullen mentioned the child care subsidy. We make decisions all the time that sometimes fall against the ministry or with the client. You have to do this in the most professional fashion, weighing the evidence the client presents, weighing the evidence the municipal individual or the civil servant presents, and you make a decision. Sometimes it's with them and sometimes it's against them.
Mr Cullen: First of all, I want to say that I think if Doug Collins were leaving the Ministry of Community and Social Services, he would be an excellent candidate for this position. The problem is he's not leaving the Ministry of Community and Social Services. As a matter of fact, he expects to be reappointed; that's an expectation we may all dream about. But he certainly expects to have the option of coming back to the ministry should his appointment not be renewed. Therein lies our problem.
The issue is that he is going to be dealing with cases involving former colleagues, the colleagues he hopes to work again with in the ministry. In fact, he is going to be interpreting ministry policy for an employer that he hopes to work again for. Any lawyer taking a case to the Social Assistance Review Board would be able to file a motion claiming an apprehension of bias simply because Mr Collins, being an employee on leave of absence, still expects to gain the benefit of that employment once his term ends. Consequently -- and there's no escaping this -- there is the apprehension of bias.
I'm sorry. He has tremendous experience. If he was leaving the ministry -- I'm not going to quarrel about being a previous candidate; I've been a previous candidate. That's not a barrier to these positions; we know that -- he would have fallen under the exit criterion that the government is talking about, the post-employment code of conduct that the government is talking about, and presumably having been sanitized through that process would be available for appointment to this position.
If there's a reason to sanitize people leaving the government on the basis of the experience of their employment in the government, you cannot go around it by simply saying: "They're on a leave of absence. We've taken care of that." This is the problem we have. The government cannot seek to circumnavigate the issue of bias, the issue of conflict of interest, by appointing a current public servant within a ministry charged with implementing the act, under whose jurisdiction the Social Assistance Review Board exists, cannot be appointing that public servant to that position simply because that public servant has taken a leave of absence.
That public servant would not take that leave of absence if there was no guarantee of a position after the term of office. I'm not talking about the specific job; I'm talking about any job in the Ontario public service. In other words, if we asked the question to Mr Collins, "Would you leave your job to take this?" -- and I'm sorry I wasn't able to ask that question -- I don't know what kind of answer we'd get. That would be the more appropriate question to ask and to receive an answer, "Yes, I am," because then there would be no apprehension of bias, no appearance of conflict of interest.
This is a significant thing, because the people who go before that tribunal have the expectation of impartiality. They expect that the people who are there are going to look at their case and judge it free of any pressure, free of any inherent expectation of future gain. Being re-employed by the ministry, as much as Mr Collins is perfectly qualified -- and if he came back the ministry would be perfectly happy to have him there; he's done an excellent job in Ottawa-Carleton. But the fact is that his hopes of returning to his job depends, really, on his performance on the board.
That's wrong. When the ministry is both a party at the board and yet the putative employer of the member of the board, you cannot avoid the charge of conflict of interest, of apprehension of bias. So I say to the government: This is not a good idea. This is a bad precedent. This is a precedent where were we the government, you would be in flames over it, where were the other party in government, you would in flames over it.
All I am saying in this regard is that even though all of us all around this table acknowledge that Mr Collins brings to this position excellent qualifications, by the fact that he still remains employed by the Ministry of Community and Social Services and expects that employment to continue, therefore we have to reject this appointment.
You see, some people think -- and I don't necessarily subscribe to it -- that because you're an employee and we all like to please the boss, that since we're coming back, this could impair a tenure, which is a very, very delicate tenure. I know you can't say it, but I can. You implement the policies of the government presently. There you are at arm's length; You are quasi-judicial. The policies of the government, whether you subscribe to them or not -- but it's just the daily bread, things that you do daily, and repeatedly you've said you were able to differentiate. But then you do carry inevitably a little bit of luggage. Certainly you agree, but that's not for me to impute and to go beyond. It would be totally unfair.
You see, I know that all governments hate poverty, but they go beyond. This government hates the poor. They've targeted the less fortunate as they go on and do their thing with the food chain. They see them as the plebes. They see them as the less worthy. They see them as opting for a choice, that's it's their fault. Nice, huh? And they encourage that. They touch every pulse and they have been mean-spirited; not individually, but as a government they have been mean-spirited.
You're asked to serve on the Social Assistance Review Board. Yes, why don't you quit your former tenure? I know we need security of employment and I can understand that. That's how I got my job, because there was no security. I think you are a good and honourable person and you come with experience, and if I had a vote I would reluctantly -- and I say this for what I've said before -- wish you well and I would go with your tenure. I think you will be a good member. But my God, you have to be a Good Samaritan to avoid seeing conflict, if you wish to see conflict. Your position is borderline, your tenure, that is, it's so closely aligned and yet it has to be -- it could be the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, okay, but no, it's the Social Assistance Review Board. It's the same bed, Monsieur. That's too close for comfort as far as I am concerned.
Mr Bert Johnson: I had a few comments that I wanted to put on the record because I found this applicant truthful and forthright. He had good, simple explanations of some complex issues that some were either unwilling or unable to understand. This man is taking a leave of absence for his job. He's leaving his job clean, and all of those things that go with the job. That is a foundation of collective agreements in this province.
I am appalled that the members of the Liberal and NDP caucuses would come out and openly criticize those sections of collective agreements, not only OPSEU, which I assume he might belong to, but CUPE, the Steelworkers, the UAW. All of those groups count on that foundation that when you want to try something else, you take a leave of absence. You go to the other job clean, and if it works out or doesn't work out, then you go back to your other job clean and it is there for you. That is part of the collective agreement. I am literally appalled that some would be arguing against those things. It's actually too bad that the two reporters who were here this morning aren't here this afternoon to put that on the front page of the Star tomorrow.
I did want to say that when this applicant takes his leave of absence he will not be a recipient of any influence or policy or benefits of his prior job, except those that are given to everybody when they take a leave of absence from that particular group. I see absolutely no conflict in that and I see absolutely no benefit in making him resign. Would that lead to any lesser conflict? Not one bit.
Should we in fact then make policy in the province of Ontario that as soon as somebody wants to take advantage of a temporary position, if he decides to go, to say, "No way, you're fired"? Wouldn't that be a great expectation for employees in this province. I have absolutely no problems in recommending this applicant.
The Vice-Chair: That's carried. That then concludes the business we have before us today. I want to thank the members for your cooperation today. I know it's been a long day. Thanks, everyone. We stand adjourned.