Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): At the outset, I know that on the agenda this morning we have listed, in closed session, the special report for the standing committee on public accounts on the new headquarters of the Workers' Compensation Board dated June 30, 1993. There are two things that I think are really significant. One is that this report is public. Every person who wished a copy could have a copy.
The Acting Chair: That was passed at the last meeting, as I recall. Mrs Marland, I don't know what you're going to say either, but if you are debating an issue that has been already dealt with, I think that's out of order. I guess it would have to be somebody who voted on the opposing side who could reopen the issue if they wanted to. The committee has made a decision, and if that in fact is what you're addressing, then that's out of order.
Mrs Marland: All right. If I can continue where I left off, the report that is to be discussed behind closed doors, shrouded, under the carpet, as a result of a vote that was taken last week by the government members on this committee to shut out the public from information the public now has, because the report is public -- that vote was taken last week, and that's not what I'm discussing.
I'm discussing the fact that although that took place last week, I am in receipt, as of yesterday, of two letters, from two different consultants the WCB used in making its decision to go ahead with its $200-million office building in spite of the fact that there were 27 million square feet of available rentable space in this city.
I need advice: What is the public allowed to know on the issue of this Workers' Compensation Board new office building? We have a second report from the auditor that is public as of last week. We now are getting correspondence from consultants which, at the very least, I would suggest, is tremendously defensive. They're trying to explain why it was a good deal, and these letters are addressed to the standing committee. They talk about, in one case, why the WCB made a 20-year investment at over 10% interest rates for that 20 years. In other words, most of the information is public that's printed, and now we're going to be pushed behind closed doors to discuss something that's already in the public domain.
So I need some guidance on this: After we go into closed session, how much is the public going to be allowed to know about a report that's already public? It's absolutely ridiculous that we're going behind closed doors to discuss a public report, and there are these letters we've now received from the consultants defending the board's decision to go ahead, one letter to the Premier from Rice Brydone Ltd and another letter addressed, interestingly enough, to the Chair of this committee from Richard Ellis, international real estate advisers, telling us what a good deal it was for the WCB. Why is it necessary for us to go behind closed doors and discuss everything that's already public information?
The Vice-Chair (Ms Dianne Poole): Mrs Marland, as you are aware, this matter was discussed last week and there was a motion. So while we cannot revisit that particular motion, I understand that the point you're making is that you want to clarify what can be in open session and what can't. Mr Callahan and Mr Phillips both have a comment on it.
Mr Callahan: I want to place on the record and emphasize the fact that the official opposition voted against having this matter in private. In fact, it only became public because we debated it for about an hour and a half and I finally said, "Well, have you got it here, Mr Auditor?" and he said, "Yes, I do," and I said, "Well, why don't you give it to us?" Then we got it, and it was received in open session.
I have some concerns about the letters I received. I have to take at face value that these are companies and professional people who would not, if I can use the word, prostitute themselves by writing nice letters on behalf of the board, but I have to look at the letters, and I think the letters seem to miss out on a very significant area.
One of the letters said something about, "Generally, there wasn't office space available in the city that could accommodate the needs of the Workers' Compensation Board," and that was the justification for building this new building. When you read a letter like that and you say "generally," I'd like to know, was there any?
In fact, I'd like to have these people, the writers of these letters, before this committee to explain to us just exactly what the nuances are in their letters. I'm just trying to find the letter that refers to that. It says, the top full paragraph on page 3 of the Drivers Jonas letter you've got, "That being the case, at the time that the proposal call was put to the market, there would have been few buildings either existing or under construction which would have met the criteria for this amount of contiguous space." I read that to mean that there are some buildings that would have met the criteria. That to me is sort of --
Mr Callahan: "Indeed, this quantum of space would have been available only in the second tower of BCE Place (generally regarded as the most prestigious and expensive building in the city) and in the Bay Adelaide Centre, which was then commencing construction but which did not respond to the proposal call."
I thank you for asking me to read the rest. I don't think that changes anything. The fact that this space was coming on line at a time when there was outstanding some massive amount of leasable space in the city tells me that although it may be an expensive place to occupy, the rents there were also going to wind up being depressed, or that, at the very least, we should be supporting the possibility of these proposed developments being successful as opposed to falling apart by our building our own facility and thereby just sort of shunting the private sector aside and saying: "Go swim on your own. We're going to build our own facility."
I find it very interesting too that they keep talking about the question of being lucky enough to get a 20-year financial commitment from the lending institution. That seems to tell me that if the WCB is such a stalwart solid investment, it's rather interesting that there was only one lender that was prepared to accommodate it. I find it passing strange as well that they keep talking about this being a great boon to the pension funds of the WCB, that in fact their real estate arm will be benefiting greatly from this. That's assuming that the real estate market takes a resurgence. Unfortunately, as we all know, it's not taking a resurgence. You could go into any registry office in this province and shoot off a cannon and the only people you'd kill would be workers. You wouldn't hit anybody who was closing a real estate deal in there.
In fact, we've made it even more difficult for them. In the city of Guelph they have moved the sheriff's office, which is an integral part of the closing of a real estate transaction, about five miles away, which means that's just going to make it more expensive to close a real estate transaction. They've jacked up the fees to register a document from $27 to $50, which is the most outrageous increase in fees I've ever heard of. It's the biggest tax grab that ever took place.
I know this is not supposed to be partisan, but I think as the public accounts committee we should be looking at these particular things. What is that investment going to be worth? Was it a good investment? I join with not wanting to question the vote that took place on last occasion, but I do have to say that these letters really don't make me feel any more comfortable than I felt when we originally addressed this issue, and I think all members should feel that way.
It's kind of like getting a note from your mother when you go back to school, you know, "Johnny's a nice boy and he won't do whatever he did again in school." That's the kind of letter I see here. They're very self-effacing. They are being written by people who obviously made a buck out of this whole project. I'm not for one minute suggesting that they're not trying to call the shots in the appropriate way, but certainly you've got to read the letter with a bit of a grain of salt.
I find it passing strange that these letters suddenly appear publicly when we're about to discuss your report, which is going to be discussed in private. These letters come forward as sort of buttressing and being a sort of recommendation or commendation for the marvellous decision that was made by the board.
Well, I think it misses one point entirely, and that point that's being missed totally is the fact that if the legal opinions that were given to WCB that they could in fact proceed with this building without the required statutory approval of the executive council are wrong -- I would certainly never want to question the erudite opinion, but it seems to me that you're really mincing words when you talk about an interest in real estate and the difference being that if you're buying you've got to have consent and if you're leasing you don't have to have consent. That's certainly splitting the legal infinitives, and it's certainly counting how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. So that's the real issue.
To whom are these people accountable? To whom is the WCB accountable? Certainly not accountable to the minister, from what we can see. Certainly not accountable to us; we told them not to go ahead with the building, and they've got the foundations in. Are they a power unto themselves? Do we not have any control over them whatsoever? We have to be responsible for their unfunded liability, we are on the hook for guaranteeing their activities, and yet we have no control over these people whatsoever.
When we decide on the last occasion that this is not a happy situation, when it becomes a cause célèbre in the House, what do they do? They send out and get three letters from the companies that they paid to say, "Oh, what a great job you did, and here's justification for having done it." Well, I say baloney, and I think that's the real nub of the issue. Who controls the Workers' Compensation Board? Anybody? Or are they totally out of control?
The Vice-Chair: Actually, Mr Phillips, you were the next person on the speakers' list. Then I have Mrs Marland and Ms Murdock. I think the intent of the motion last week was that we would hear the auditor's report to us, his briefing, in camera. As long as your comments are not revisiting that motion, I will accept comments.
Mr Phillips: The challenge for me is that we now have before us a document from Workers' Compensation Board, referring to the item that we're going to talk about, that I think is totally misleading. It affects me personally, and that's why I'm concerned about us moving into private session.
Firstly, and I was the previous Minister of Labour until September 1990, that implies that the item of the Simcoe Place project was discussed with me. Well, it never was. It never was. In fact, if you go through their chronology of events, you can see it wasn't until November of 1990, or at least October, when I presume the Simcoe Place project was one of the bidders, but discussing the Simcoe Place project with me never occurred.
I also have always had a strong belief that it was wrong for WCB to be in a large downtown building. I've always felt, why pay high rent for that big a building? So I would have expressed my concerns to them.
"Based on these ongoing meetings with the government, it was understood that cabinet approval was not required." Had they ever asked me, I would have said it must go through cabinet. The only thing I can recall WCB bringing to me was some issue around its existing lease, and I don't know whether the auditor had a chance to look at that or not, but around some air space that they had in their existing lease. I instructed them to go to Government Services, I think it was, to look at it.
The reason I'm concerned about moving this into private session is that we now have a letter dated July 21, which is yesterday, implying that the Simcoe Place project had been discussed with the previous minister. That simply couldn't have happened, because of the chronology of events. In July 1990, people will recall that was around the time the election was called, the board was looking at, I gather, all options including leasing, equity participation etc.
So, as I say, I'm concerned if we move into private session that somehow or other these kinds of comments that are out there that affect me personally -- there's not an opportunity to respond to them.
Mr Callahan: Yes, I will be very brief. The item we were to discuss that had been voted on and that had in fact been agreed to be discussed in private, was the special report of the new headquarters, dated June 30, 1993. Nowhere was there ever a vote that the response from the Workers' Compensation Board, which is what my colleague was speaking of in terms of it being quite a privilege -- that has never been voted on in terms of being discussed in private.
That issue is still open. I submit, Madam Chair, that that gives my colleague the opportunity to speak to that matter in terms of whether there should be a vote and whether we should discuss the response from the Workers' Compensation Board.
Mr Duignan: Point of order, Madam Chair: This is the public accounts committee. We have an agenda we haven't got to. I strongly object to bringing another item to the agenda. We have agreed at our subcommittee meeting to deal, first of all, with the report of the subcommittee from 10 o'clock; and deal, in closed session, with the special report of the standing committee.
Mrs Marland: It's very interesting how defensive the government members are on this particular matter in this committee. It makes me think that there must be a lot of smelly rats in the hold of the ship of the WCB because, quite frankly --
Mrs Marland: We happen to work in the world of pure politics. Unfortunately for this province, we're in the world of pure socialism in Ontario. I can't believe why you're not willing to discuss something that was already discussed in public session in January.
I am not speaking, Madam Chair, to the report that is in closed session, because you already shut us out on that. The reason I brought up the letters that we've received -- and I'd like to ask the clerk this. Madam Clerk, yesterday in the House I had delivered to me these letters to which I referred earlier, from Rice Brydone and from Richard Ellis Ltd. I received those letters yesterday in the Legislature. They're dated July 21.
Clerk of the Committee (Ms Tannis Manikel): The first letters that you received in the Legislature started coming in around 12:30 or 1 o'clock yesterday. My office did its best to get them to the members in the House.
Clerk of the Committee: The letter from the WCB came in later that afternoon and we felt it was too late to get it after question period, that we couldn't get it to the members in the House. So I brought it to the committee this morning.
Mrs Marland: Obviously the board did not wish us to have this letter far enough in advance that we could study something like 51 pages of response to an issue that is important to the taxpayers of this province.
It is significant that in this correspondence today from the WCB, on page 3, they again refer to something that we discussed in open session in this committee in January in response to questions I raised with Mr King, the vice-chair of the Workers' Compensation Board. On page 3, again they say that the WCB also sought independent legal advice and was confirmed in this view. This goes back to the issue of whether the Workers' Compensation Board --
Mrs Marland: It's in the communiqué today from the board. This goes back to the issue of whether the board could legally start a company and invest in real estate. At that time, Mr King said he had several legal opinions on that matter. When I asked, one afternoon, if we could see those legal opinions, he said yes, he would bring them the next morning.
The next morning, Mr King came with one legal opinion to this committee. When I asked him where the several others were, he said he had not been able to lay his hand on them in such a short time. When I suggested to him that perhaps he wasn't able to bring them because they were not a supporting opinion to the position the board had ultimately made, which was to go ahead and build this ivory tower for the WCB, he then challenged me and suggested that maybe I would like to repeat those comments outside the room, because he felt I was suggesting he was lying.
I did not appreciate those comments from Mr King, but how interesting that, six months later, they're still saying they sought independent legal advice. They're still saying they didn't need cabinet approval to get into the building business. Well, folks, they're in the building business, and I think we should be allowed to discuss this material that has been circulated to us, both yesterday in the House and now at our desks this morning, because what's going on here -- if the government wants to discuss in closed session the auditor's report, which is what it voted on last week, fine. They're going to discuss something in closed session that's now already public, which shows the paranoia the government has about this Workers' Compensation Board building.
I think we are entitled to discuss material that is before us this morning as members of this committee. Frankly, I think the public deserves to know what is at the bottom of this shift that obviously the government members are so highly sensitive about. We've got a situation where --
The Vice-Chair: Mrs Marland, Mr Duignan's point of order, which I think you've strayed away from, was that we are not dealing with the agenda that was set out before him. Although in this committee we've been fairly lenient, I think what I'm going to do is move off this particular topic and on to the subcommittee report. You will note that as part of the subcommittee report there is a draft agenda which includes an item about the WCB. So if there are further items you wish to raise, they could be raised at the time of our subcommittee report.
The Vice-Chair: We will now move into the report of the subcommittee. Members have the report before them, and the clerk has drafted a very tentative four-week draft agenda for the summer recess, should we ever get to the point where we have a summer recess. Are there any comments from members on this? I'll give you a moment to look through the agenda.
Mrs Marland: I have a question about the meeting on the 29th that's listed on the subcommittee report, where it was agreed that the government representative on the subcommittee will try to arrange for senior staff of the Workers' Compensation Board to appear on the special report for the standing committee on public accounts on this new headquarters.
The Vice-Chair: Mrs Marland, I'm sorry, this was my error. Just before you make your comments on that, the clerk has advised that we should read this into the record. Because of my voice problems today, I'm going to ask the clerk to do that, and then you will have the floor.
"It was agreed that the government representative on the subcommittee will try to arrange for senior staff of the Workers' Compensation Board to appear on the special report for the standing committee on public accounts on the new headquarters of the Workers' Compensation Board dated June 30, 1993.
"Your subcommittee agreed to direct the clerk pro tem of the subcommittee immediately to advise officials of GO Transit that they may be required to appear before the standing committee on public accounts on Thursday, 29 July 1993."
The second point I would like to raise with you is that the 51- or whatever-page document was pressed into my hands this morning at 20 to 10 as I left my office to join your meeting. I find this reprehensible, as a point of personal privilege, that as a comment on my report, after the Workers' Compensation Board had officially commented to me and I had reproduced to you, as a committee, in my report what the board had said, it comes up with a 51-page rebuttal which in part attacks the integrity of my office, and does this by sending you the information the afternoon before the meeting and having a taxi driver send it to my office at 20 minutes to 10 in the morning and press it. I am absolutely horrified. I feel I have to urge this committee that you have no other recourse but to call these people before you and make them accountable to you.
Mrs Marland: You know, I've been here only eight years, but in my eight years I've never seen anything handled the way this has been handled. For the auditor to have to give that report that he's just given is absolutely unbelievable. I would think, Mr Duignan, that as the whip of your members you should go out and get your marching orders from the corner office and find out what it is that the government should be doing on this public accounts committee.
Since we are dealing with this correspondence which has been exclusively directed to us, and which I'm happy to give a copy of to anybody, because nowhere on this correspondence does it say it's private and confidential or only for committee members, I'm very happy to give a copy of this to the media if they would like it.
I want to say one thing on the subcommittee report, because here again is a precedent I haven't seen. For next week's meeting on the 29th -- and I don't know who sat on the subcommittee for our caucus --
Mrs Marland: Was it Mr Tilson? Okay. It says here: "It was agreed that the government representative on the subcommittee will try to arrange for senior staff of the Workers' Compensation Board...." Will somebody please tell me since when that's a responsibility of a member of this committee? It's a responsibility of the clerk, who represents all the committee, to deal with people who are going to come before this committee. I think the very fact that the government representative is now going to be the one to try to arrange for senior staff to come to the board --
Mrs Marland: This relationship is incestuous between the government and WCB. It's not a government agency any more. Since you've taken over as the government, obviously it has a very special relationship, and that relationship is why you want to discuss an auditor's report behind closed doors. It's the reason you want to get under the carpet with information that is already in the public domain, because of your relationship with an organization that to your mind, I suppose, represents your voters.
I do not accept that the government representative will make arrangements for anyone to appear before this committee. That is the responsibility of the clerk of this committee, representing all three caucuses, so I have tremendous difficulty with that.
Still speaking on the subcommittee report for the summer recess, where we talked about health cards, we also discussed in full committee -- I don't know, Madam Chair, in fairness, if you were at that meeting, but the clerk can confirm this and I think Mr O'Connor can confirm it. We agreed that we would invite the OMA and the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the deputy and other people as required. This says, "Other items as required." I think the point was that we wanted to have full flexibility when we discuss health cards, to have as many options as possible open to us.
Mr Duignan: I simply say that I think that is an error, because in no way did we want to stop the OMA or anybody else or the flexibility of this committee asking anybody to appear in front of this committee or anybody making representation on the health cards, so maybe this report is in error in that aspect.
Clerk of the Committee: Just on your comment on, "Other items as required," it was my understanding from the subcommittee that we might not spend the entire week on health cards and that if there was time and if the committee felt, we might schedule other items to be discussed, not necessarily health cards.
Mrs Marland: Could we make it very clear that on the subject of health cards the committee would have the flexibility of having other people on that subject? Apart from your saying, "If there wasn't enough for that meeting, to have other items," we did talk about having people other than the OMA and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, so I think it's important for that notation to be there, because after we hear from the OMA and the deputy there may well be other people from other areas whom we want to hear from on the health cards.
The Vice-Chair: Mrs Marland, I'm going to suggest that we make an amendment to that particular paragraph on health cards to say, after the words "Physicians and Surgeons," "and other witnesses as determined by the committee to make the presentations to the committee."
Mrs Marland: Also, under week 2, where we talked about the Ministry of Housing, it says here one half-day tour of co-op housing project and one half-day meeting with non-profit housing groups, if possible, or a president of a residents' committee of a non-profit housing unit.
I understood when we talked about it in the whole committee that we were going to do this as a half-day; we were going to go to a location, see a project, for those people who haven't seen projects, and I've seen 27 projects; meet with somebody at a project, such as maybe the residents' committee at that project or some management people at a project. I don't mind who we meet with, but I don't think we have to spend a day out of the committee setting on this housing visit. I think that in a three-hour visit we can see a project and meet with a residents' committee, so I don't see the necessity for two half-days on that subject.
Mrs Marland: With respect, that is what I would like, because it doesn't take a whole morning to tour a project. Quite frankly, you can do it in half an hour to an hour at the most, if you're just looking at the physical plant.
I want to say in closing that after we approve this report of the subcommittee, I am going to place a motion that the committee adjourn until we can have either Mr Di Santo -- we should actually have Mr Di Santo before this committee, since we've only had Mr King. I think at the time, in fairness, Mr Di Santo was ill in January and couldn't appear before the committee. But I think in light of what has happened this morning with this rebuttal of the auditor's report from the WCB being handed out to the committee members and excluding the auditor's office, it's imperative that before we proceed with this agenda to discuss behind closed doors the auditor's report, we invite Mr Di Santo to appear before the committee, and if he's not available, Mr King, since he's been here to deal with this subject before.
I will be placing that motion, because I don't see how we can proceed to discuss the WCB building this morning, in light of the materials that we've received, and I don't think it's acceptable for the WCB, over the signature of -- well, there isn't a signature, unfortunately. I guess the contact, Peter Mueller, is their press person. This material did come to us. Even Mr King hasn't signed it. Sam Van Clieaf has signed it. Isn't it interesting that something as important as a 51-page report to this committee doesn't even carry the signature of the chairman or the vice-chairman of the board?
In any case, I feel it's a very critical issue. We're talking about a $200-million project here and we're talking about it being totally mishandled. I don't wish this committee to compound the mishandling of this project so far. I think we have to get the chairman of the board here so we can ask him about this WCB report of yesterday's date, the 51 pages, and ask him why he excluded the auditor's office from a copy of this report until 20 minutes before 10 this morning.
Mr Phillips: I think we're still on the subcommittee report and on the order of appearing, and I support Mrs Marland's contention that we should hear first from the senior staff at workers' compensation.
What drives me to support that is the report that was issued in the last 24 hours to us. I say what I said earlier, that it leads me to conclude that the board is attempting somehow or other to influence our discussion on this report.
I go back to a comment that's in their report on page 3, "The Facts," as they call it, that the previous Minister of Labour, and that happened to be myself, was "regularly informed about the progress of the Simcoe Place project."
Well, that's just simply not the case. It was in July 1990 that I gather the board decided to look at all options -- leasing, building, all of those things -- and it wasn't until, I gather, October or November, when they'd already gotten 34 responses in, that they began to look at perhaps that Simcoe Place alternative.
That also says that, "Based on these ongoing meetings with the government, it was understood that cabinet approval was not required." That implies that there was some meeting with me where I indicated cabinet approval was not required, and I could not imagine me indicating to the board that cabinet approval was not required for the project. For that reason, I think we would find it more useful to have a detailed discussion of the auditor's report after we've heard from the senior people at workers' compensation.
Mr Duignan: There's obviously some confusion around the item in the subcommittee report for July 29. I have absolutely no control over the senior management of the Workers' Compensation Board. What I did say at that subcommittee meeting is that I would see if I could get the minister to appear in front of the committee. I have absolutely no sway over the senior management of the Workers' Compensation Board.
I also have filed a motion in front of this committee, and it's based on the fact that the Provincial Auditor has now released his report and made a number of recommendations in that report, both to the government and to the Workers' Compensation Board. Both the government and the Workers' Compensation Board have stated that they will comply with the Provincial Auditor's recommendations, but they actually need some time to do that. That's why we're moving a motion that the standing committee on public accounts return to the issue of the Workers' Compensation Board's new headquarters after the Workers' Compensation Board has reported back to this committee in 1996, as per the Provincial Auditor's recommendations in his report.
The Vice-Chair: The clerk will get you copies as soon as possible. Mr Callahan, what I'm going to do is I'm going to transfer the rest of the speaking list, which was fairly extensive, over to Mr Duignan's motion.
Mr Duignan: Okay, that the standing committee on public accounts return to the issue of the Workers' Compensation Board's new headquarters after the Workers' Compensation Board has reported back to this committee in 1996, as per the Provincial Auditor's recommendation in this report.
Mr Peters: The point I would like to raise is that the 1996 recommendation made in my report was merely to allow the committee to make a future follow-up on the item. The major recommendation in my report to you is actually for the committee to consider the accountability framework within which the WCB operates and to deal with that. I would consider that another important issue that you may want to deal with, and you may not want to defer that to 1996.
First, I'd like to comment just previous to the motion moved. In all my years of sitting in any elected post, I've never seen a staff member have a point of privilege. This has to be a first, in my view, and I'm not condemning the staff. I think this is probably historic, because I can't recall staff being so upset and feeling so maligned that they've had to rise on a point of privilege, which I think is out of order, to put their case on the record. I think that should send shivers down the spine of the government members, that your own staff of this province is now standing on points of privileges in this committee and protecting their credentials and credibility from your assaults. It's absolutely unbelievable, in my mind. I don't think I've ever seen it.
Mrs Marland: My point of order is this: Just to clarify where we are, we were dealing with the report of the subcommittee albeit without a motion. I said that I wished to place a motion as we completed the report of the subcommittee. I said, "I wish to place a motion requesting the chair of the WCB to appear before this committee." Correct?
Mrs Marland: Now we're speaking to a motion that was placed after I said that. Mr Stockwell is speaking to this motion. He could speak to any of the things we've already spoken to, but I would like to know why we're now speaking to Mr Duignan's motion when I already served notice that I was placing the motion to have the chair of WCB come before us, and why we've interrupted the report of the subcommittee.
The Vice-Chair: Members can bring forward a motion if there is not another motion on the floor. There was no motion to adopt the subcommittee's report. Although you gave notice of motion, you did not actually introduce the motion at that time.
Mrs Marland: Do you know why I didn't? Because I didn't think that you would accept a motion when we were in the middle of discussing the report, so as a courtesy I said, "When we've completed this report, I wish to place that motion." That's what I think Hansard will show that I said. I didn't think it was in order to place a motion when we were dealing with the approval of the subcommittee report.
Mr Callahan: Madam Chair, on that point: It's always been my understanding that notice of motion was served as a courtesy to the members so they knew what was to be expected. That's the same in your case and the same in Noel's case. This is a very serious issue. I'd like to get on with it. Let's stop the procedural wranglings.
We've heard the auditor do something, as Mr Stockwell said, that I have never heard in the eight years I've been in this place. That tells me there's something very wrong here, that the place is out of control, that WCB thinks it's a damn-well power unto itself. They better be told that they're accountable to somebody, and certainly this legislative committee.
Mrs Marland: If I can finish my point of order, Madam Chair, the reason that my motion is important to be dealt with ahead of this motion is because this motion says the issue of the WCB headquarters -- it covers everything. It means that with this government having a majority on this committee, it's about to shut us down completely and we won't be able to say anything without having heard from the chairman. That's why my motion should be dealt with first, because I want to see these government members vote down having the chairman of WCB come to this committee and explain his rebuttal of the most recent auditor's report.
So that's why, Madam Chair, with respect, I don't think that you can accept Mr Duignan's motion ahead of mine, because -- I realize, being the Chair, you're totally independent -- his motion will shut down the whole discussion once they pass it. I think what will happen is, when they get to speak, they'll probably call the question. So, with respect, I do think my motion to invite the chair to come before this committee has precedent over Duignan's.
The Vice-Chair: Mr Callahan, a moment, please. Mrs Marland, the problem I have is that in this committee it has been the practice, as a courtesy, to provide notice of motion. But that has been a courtesy; it is not actually a requirement for the motion.
Because Mr Duignan's motion actually does deal with the content of the report -- in fact, the report was to set the timing and how we would deal with the WCB report -- it is in order. The problem that you have handed me is that although you did give notice of motion you did not put that motion on the floor at that time.
The Vice-Chair: No, but I'm saying you did not place the motion. Mr Duignan did. Notice of motion is not required. It has been a courtesy and practice on the committee, but it is not required. So, while I think you've raised a valid point, it is not a point of order in that -- or let me put it a better way: Mr Duignan's motion is in order.
The Vice-Chair: No, Mrs Marland, you would be entirely permitted to give a verbal motion at the time, write it out for the clerk, and the clerk would go and make copies of it. That would not be the problem.
The Vice-Chair: I'm afraid this is a technicality, because the draft agenda did deal with the WCB problem and how we are going to deal with it in the summer and how much time and what would go on in the process. Therefore, when I look at Mr Duignan's motion, it is in order because he is saying that he does not want it dealt with this summer, that he wants to delay it until after 1996.
The Vice-Chair: After the election; I wasn't going to say that. So I am prepared to entertain more debate, since we have only had one person speak to this motion. Next I have Mr Stockwell. I think Mr Stockwell had the floor.
Mr Stockwell: I got as far as commenting on the fact that the auditor had a point of privilege, which I found very curious. If I were in the government and that happened to me and I saw staff -- and it's not direct staff, but the auditor -- say that, that would send shivers down my spine. You people have got to start thinking here. That's got to scare you.
Mr Stockwell: I'm not making any assumption. I heard the man; I heard what he said. He got this foisted on him at 10 o'clock or whatever this morning and was told to take it with him to this committee meeting.
Now, Mr Duignan's motion is not going to stand the test. Even if it makes it out of this committee -- give your heads a shake -- this won't stand up today. This is a joke, "We won't review this until 1996." This won't stand the test for 30 minutes out of this room. You'll be nailed and you'll have to change this motion pronto. So take this motion and throw it in the garbage. Save yourselves a lot of trouble. Because this motion could not stand the test for the rest of the day. You people would be chopped up in a room and some dipper staffer would come in and lay it on the line and you'd come back here and rechange it. So let's get on with the motions before us.
We have a series of motions, ignoring Mr Duignan's motion that says we should not review this case until 1996. What is left? It seems to me that the most obvious solution to this problem is to get both parties here together. Ask the auditor, "If we give you a week or so, could you come back with the report on the report that you received this morning?" Ask the WCB chair, as the member for Mississauga South has suggested, to come in at the same meeting, and let's let everyone lay our cards on the table and let's examine the finer points that the auditor has brought forward and find out whether or not the staff at the WCB can defend the decisions they made.
It's reasonable. It's a fair process. That's just an acceptable process in any disagreement between auditors and departments. You get the auditor in, you get the department in, and you compare notes. You listen to them and you decide which route to go.
I don't think anything's out of order here or unreasonable. The only thing I can think, personally, is, if you are serious about this 1996 motion, what are you trying to cover up? What are you trying to hide? That's the only thing any fairminded individual could think when he or she sees a motion to defer to 1996. What are you trying to hide?
If you don't think that's a fair comment, then why, in your own minds, would you be moving a motion for 1996? Why? What possible public benefit could there be to defer this to 1996 and misconstrue the report the auditor gave as your basis for making that decision by suggesting the auditor said we shouldn't review it till 1996? That is an absolutely unbelievable, slanted approach to reviewing the auditor's report.
Chair, I suggest to you that this motion that Mr Duignan has moved is absurd. He knows it, you know it: 1996. Just throw it to the side. Let's deal with the realities of the situation. The realities are that the auditor has put a scathing report out. He's been given the response from the WCB only this morning. It would only seem reasonable that we give him a week to review it, we get both parties in in a week, and then we decide who's right.
If you don't vote for that, then you've lost all the respect from the public out there; you've lost all the respect for any fairminded individual to have a reasonable review of the public process, the public tendering process. Most of all, I say to you through the Chair, you've damaged any credibility you have with the auditor, and the auditor himself. If they're allowed to produce reports that condemn decision-making, and you sweep these under the carpet and then suggest we'll review it in 1996, you're farcical. It's just farcical that we should reach that state in this province that we could make those kinds of decisions.
I say to the member for Middlesex as well as the others, if you truly want to get to the bottom of this issue, call both parties in and hear them out. To defer it to 1996, I say to you: What are your marching orders? What are you trying to hide? Because it's very, very embarrassing.
Mr Callahan: Since we're discussing this, I would like to move an amendment taking out the words "as per" in the motion, because that is contrary to the spirit of the motion, really, and replace them with the words "which is contrary to the spirit of."
Mr Callahan: Okay. I'd like to move to the number one issue, as I see it, in this entire scenario. This is the public accounts committee. As has been said often, although we joke from time to time about being partisan here, we have tried and it has been the spirit of this committee to be non-partisan. We are the watchdogs of the taxpayers' dollars.
The Vice-Chair: Mr Callahan, I've just written this down. I want to just clarify before you make your comments. You would want an amendment which would lead the motion to be that the standing committee on public accounts return to the issue of the WCB's new headquarters after the WCB has reported back to the committee in 1996, which is contrary to the spirit of the Provincial Auditor's recommendation in his report.
Mr Callahan: Right. Okay. So, I'd like to go back to it. It has always been my understanding that despite some partisan cracks that are made in this place from time to time in this committee, this is one of the few committees of the Legislature where we try to do the best thing for the taxpayers of this province.
Having said that, you've got a couple of things. First of all, you've got three letters that were dropped on my desk yesterday in the Legislature kind of saying it's a great deal the WCB has pulled off here and, in doing that, they say they've become aware of the issues in the Provincial Auditor's report. In the letter from Rice Brydone Ltd and in the letter from Richard Ellis they said, "We've reviewed a copy of the Provincial Auditor's report concerning the above-mentioned matter."
Well, by golly, these people have had a chance to review it and we've only just released it to the public. I find that really interesting that the WCB has given them this so they can send these goody-goody letters on its behalf.
But to get back to the more important thing, who's in control of the WCB? Does it not respond to anybody? Is it not accountable to anybody? Can it go merrily off on its own and create its own government if it likes? Can it buy whatever it likes? Can it do whatever it likes? Can it treat the auditor like he's some sort of a fool by dropping a response to his report on him the day of the matter coming before public accounts?
That's not even equitable in any arrangement, that a person would not have the decency to give a response to a report that was considered and was done by an independent officer of this government and give him an opportunity to respond to it. Instead, what they want to do, they drop it on him at the last minute and expect that when we're in here in camera we're going to say: "Well, Mr Auditor, here's the response from the Workers' Compensation Board. What have you got to say about that?" Well, wouldn't that be neat? I guess we could say, "Mr Peters, we want an answer right now."
To me that is totally out of sight. It is high-handed; it is dictatorial. I want the people in the Workers' Compensation Board here, and if they don't come here, I'm prepared, even if you people vote against it, to ask the Chair to ask for a Speaker's warrant for these people if they don't come.
Mr Callahan: I'm hoping I can persuade the committee that in fact we need these people here. Don't go trying to squirrel to help them out. I implore the members of the committee -- although I note that it appears as though there's some concern on your part -- this is a matter that deals with who's in control and are we going to let them continue to be a power unto themselves or are we going to put a leash on them. I think it's time to put a leash on them. The next thing you know they'll be getting into the tourism business or something.
Mr Callahan: What I'm trying to say here is that this should be a totally non-partisan vote. If the public accounts committee does not leash the WCB and does not in fact tell them that the power is here, not within themselves, then we should abolish the public accounts committee. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
We have the auditor sitting there, and as Mr Stockwell said, in his experience and mine, and mine is longer than his, I have never seen that before. This gentleman is very careful to avoid policy issues, which is his job; his job is to make sure that we're getting value for money. I find it very interesting, and I suggest to you that if this committee cannot be non-partisan on this issue, then I'm afraid we can never be non-partisan on any issue, and it flies right in the face of the traditions of a public accounts committee.
We've got people out there who are paying the rates, businesses paying the rates under compulsion. They're upset about the rates and how they have to pay them. Can you imagine if the public accounts committee now says: "Oh well, we can't control them. We can't get the vice-chair or the chair before us, so let's just forget about it. Let's just let them do whatever they want"? Well, I'll tell you something, I think you'd find a tax withdrawal. These people wouldn't pay the WCB premiums if that happens.
There's a lot riding on this, believe me. It's not politics, because all of us are affected, and it just happens to be that you guys are in the catbird seat, but you'd better damn well not try to kill the canary while you're there. You'd better look at this in terms of a non-partisan issue and tell anybody out in the back hall or down on the second floor at the Premier's office: "Get out of my life. I am now voting as a member who's looking after the tax dollars of my constituents, not playing your game that you want us to play down on the second floor."
Mr Callahan: I can tell you that if you try to pass that motion as it is, I agree with Mr Stockwell, we will be out of here today. This summer session extension will be over. That Legislature will be so hot, it will be like the Atlanta Braves' baseball stadium; it will be on fire. The Premier will want to get out of here so fast, he'll have the biggest scrum of his life in the hallway, because in fact what you will be doing is telling the people of Ontario, "We don't care about you people" --
I can't believe the government would try to set this up, and that's what it looks like to me, it really does. I hate to say that and I hope I can persuade you members -- and we've seen this happen. You members who have got a little independent thinking in terms of protecting and preserving and saving this committee -- because if you try to do this setup, if you try to pass that motion and muzzle this thing, you in fact have made the public accounts committee totally ineffective and we may as well just collapse the committee, save the taxpayers some money and go our ways. What's the point?
This is not a partisan issue. The WCB has been a bugaboo to everybody. Nobody has ever been happy with them. Your staff struggles with them in terms of trying to help people in this province and they get the runaround: They can't find the file, or the file's been moved here, or it'll take six months to get the file or whatever, and here we've got them now going out and buying real estate.
Now, granted, they say they had a legal opinion, but I'll tell you something, I really find it interesting that they can take a section that is as clear as anything, I think, and turn it into the analysis they got, unless that's what they asked for when they originally did it. It's like anything else: If you ask for that and you say, "We'd like you to find a way to interpret this in this regard" -- I'm just trying to find the section. The section is pretty clear. "Thou shalt not" -- wait till I find it. In section 64 -- oh, here it is:
"Subject to the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council" -- a marvellous term, I love that term. We should change it, though, to "the cabinet," because that's what it is -- "the board may purchase or otherwise acquire such real property as it may consider necessary for its purposes...."
Well, let me tell you, a lease is real property. It's an interest in real property, particularly a 20-year lease or a 50-year lease, or whatever this is. That's equivalent to what they used to do in feudal times in England, so it is an interest in a real property. How they got that decision in terms of that not requiring cabinet approval is beyond my wildest dreams.
I think if the government had been smart, they would have said, "Well, you know, maybe we should have that tested, have a reference or something." A $200-million or a $187-million building being put up -- they should have been darn certain they could do it.
If a citizen out there decided they wanted to challenge this whole thing, they could take a reference to the courts. If it turned out that they didn't have the approval, that it was an unlawful putting out of money for an interest in real estate, we would all be in trouble, thank you.
Finally, I say to you, I plead with you, if you people intend to railroad that motion through, I'm done. I'm off this committee. I'm not going to come back and sit on public accounts, because it's a sham.
Mr Callahan: But I'll tell you something. I'll be able to go and tell my constituents that I didn't play politics with an issue that involved their money, their taxes, at a time when the Premier is telling people that they should cut back on their jobs, lose their jobs, cut back on their salaries, and we're sitting here and letting the Workers' Compensation Board get away with this nonsense without at least coming before us and being accountable.
If this muzzle motion is intended to do that -- and I think it is, because I find it passing strange that you would come in with the whole thing typed up and that we would have an uncanny number of members here this morning in anticipation of the vote -- then I really find that unthinkable. I think it's the shabbiest thing I've ever seen in politics in all the time I've been here.
Mr Callahan: We're not talking about Liberals, NDP or Conservatives. We're talking about the taxpayers. This committee is supposed to look after their interests, and this isn't looking after their interests.
Mr Callahan: You're here to vote on this motion, and everything I've said thus far you haven't even listened to, because you come strolling in at 20 after 11. I have nothing further to say. I'd like us to vote on the amendment and then we'll get a reading on how the government is going to snuff this all.
Mr Callahan: I'm sorry, after the others have spoken. I think we'll get an idea from the amendment as to whether or not this is going to be snuffed by the second-floor spin doctors who have decided that this is embarrassing to the government.
Mr Phillips: Just very briefly, I would suggest to the government members just to withdraw the motion. That's my advice, because I don't think it will stand. No one will accept that we are not going to discuss this issue until 1996, and I think you understand that. Frankly, it would be a big mistake for you to pass this motion today, because I guarantee we'll be back here reopening the issue. Mr Duignan just might want to pull the motion off the table, because let's deal with reality: This thing will not stand.
Then I think we should be moving on to what we should be doing, that is, asking the senior staff of the WCB to come in here and explain the questions we've got and the report they sent us, and then we'll hear from the auditor. In fairness to the auditor, I think that's the sequence that should take place; frankly, any other process is just unworkable.
Mr Phillips: Just to make it simple for everybody, I would table this motion until we have heard from workers' compensation and the auditor. That's what I've moved, that we table it until we've heard from --
The Vice-Chair: So it is actually debatable, Mr Callahan, because it's only if the question is called that it is not debatable. It's whether the motion of deferment itself is in order. That's what's under discussion right now.
The Vice-Chair: We're discussing the question of whether the briefing would even be on, according to this particular motion. The way I would interpret this motion is that if this is passed, the public accounts committee cannot be discussing the new WCB headquarters until after the Provincial Auditor has reported, until they've reported back in 1996, so that would defer even the briefing by the auditor; in other words, we'd be asked to defer everything without even hearing from the auditor.
Ms Murdock: I am going to be addressing this. I've been missed once because of deferrals and because of new amendments and new motions. This is the second time. I will get recognized by the Chair at some point?
Ms Murdock: I'm not speaking to the tabling motion, though, Madam Chair, although I suppose everything else has been random and all over the place, so I might as well. I hate to follow suit, because I like to speak to point, but I think I'll probably do it and accept the recognition, Madam Chair.
I just want to remind everybody that in terms of November 1992 -- I've been hearing it bandied about by the members of the opposition implying that we're hiding something by not wanting the administration people here when they've already been here on two separate meeting days. Last November, it was a unanimous decision that we have the Provincial Auditor review the WCB; government members supported the motion. If you want to check Hansard, go right ahead, but I know that government members supported the motion, so it is not consistent with the coverup that is being hinted at or even blatantly stated.
Ms Murdock: I'm not speaking to that at the moment. The public accounts committee had two days of testimony from a number of the WCB officials, albeit, I admit, that Mr Di Santo was not one of them. The operating chair of the board was here, as well as legal counsel. We also supported that process.
The Provincial Auditor has now released the report and certainly has made his opinion clearly known. My understanding -- I was only here for one of those days last January; I wasn't here for the second day -- was that the mandate was to do a value-for-money audit, and that has been done. I think, even from the reading of the report, that it is indicated that there is a fair rate of return. I would point out too, at 1990 --
Ms Murdock: I think being missed consistently by the members who have been speaking on this is that at that time in 1990, 500,000 square feet was required. Finding that in this city at the time, when rental was not easy -- and we should all remember that, those of us who had to find apartments in this city, because we came down here and had to take what we could get; there wasn't very much. And 500,000 square feet is significant, particularly when you need access flooring, need all the kinds of things the board has stated.
However, the report has come out, and in terms of the accountability issue, which is separate and apart from the value-for-money audit -- and I think that should be made quite distinct -- the accountability issue can only be addressed and can only be proved as being correct or wrong in time.
I realize that the auditor has made it quite clear that they should be reporting back. The board, as I've seen from one of its letters, will report to cabinet in terms of an estimate. They've agreed to abide by the recommendations that the auditor has in this report. What are you going to do, change it now? Let's hypothetically look at this: Suppose this committee decides the WCB should not have gone through with the deal, so we tell it to stop construction.
Ms Murdock: When we were briefed by Dr Elgie, who was chair of the board at the time, when Dr Elgie gave us the briefing along with Mark -- I can't remember his name -- the vice-chair of the board at the time, I know the penalty fee at that time was going to be astronomical. Now, with construction started, it'd be well over $100 million just to stop and pay the fees, and that doesn't take into account the fact that you'd be paying lawyers' fees to try and reduce your liability for cancelling contracts; not to say anything about the number of construction jobs that would be affected in the city of Toronto. Think about it. There would be hundreds and hundreds of jobs --
Ms Murdock: In any case, the reality is that there is, in my view, no point in continuing this. I have no difficulty, and I make no apologies, for intending to vote for Mr Duignan's motion and letting them get on with the job and finally having a place in this city where 100,000 disabled workers can actually go into a building without having to go through a back door and the garbage bags. I make no apologies to the injured workers of Ontario for this.
"In our opinion, there was insufficient analysis of other alternatives by the WCB to demonstrate that it is receiving good value for money by occupying and investing in the building. Analyses done were not designed to ensure that the best value-for-money option was selected."
Ms Murdock: Look at page 7, Mrs Marland: "Reasonable investment returns were obtained," in terms of the expectations. The assessment is that, "The $26-per-square-foot non-arm's-length rental paid by the WCB for 70% of the office space ensures that the investment will provide a reasonable rate of return comparable to other investments in the accident fund." And there are three partners to this.
Mrs Marland: Then perhaps I should at this point ask the auditor if his conclusion covers all the other comments, in fairness to the rest of the report, because in his conclusion he is saying that he has a concern about the best value-for-money option.
Also, in the WCB's material that it distributed today, under "Authority and accountability," it is criticizing the auditor where it says, "The WCB is audited regularly by the Provincial Auditor." It's on page 2 of the WCB handout.
Mrs Marland: Yes, the one we just got today from the WCB. At the bottom of page 2, it says, "The WCB is audited regularly by the Provincial Auditor. None of the regular audits since 1988 complained about the validity of the WCB's decision to set up a subsidiary in 1988."
I need to ask Mr Peters whether, first of all, you still hold to your conclusion on page 8 of last week's report that in your opinion there was insufficient analysis about the good value for money by occupying and investing in the building.
I'd also like your response to the criticism that your office has not commented on the decision for the WCB to establish a subsidiary in 1988. Is it perhaps, Mr Peters, because when the subsidiary was established in 1988 and any time since, until the documents were signed, would your office necessarily have known that the subsidiary was going to be used to invest in a new office ivory tower for the WCB?
Mr Peters: First, I would like to get back to the audit report. The audit report said we have an issue on the fairness of the financial presentation. They did not deal either with value-for-money issues in the WCB nor did they deal particularly with the corresponding action whether they are in compliance with all the regulations, and whatever have you, that the government has issued at that particular time.
The previous reports referred to deal strictly with whether or not the decision to incorporate a subsidiary would have influenced the financial position of the board, and certainly at that time it did not.
The fact of life is that it was only in 1992 that the Workers' Compensation Board decided to use this subsidiary for this particular investment because in fact it did not have a conflict-of-interest policy that regulated it with respect to the use of assets for administrative purposes or an investment. That was the fact of life on that one.
The other question that I would like to raise with you is that as far as the value for money is concerned, on page 7, which was the rebuttal point, there are two very important words in there that I'd like to emphasize to you. It says "at non-arm's-length rental rate." These are not rentals that are achieved from anywhere outside the board. In other words, they did construct the rental rate in such a way that it would give them a reasonable rate of return. But this is taking money from one pocket and putting it into the other.
Maybe I can take this opportunity to put one other point to rest. There is nothing in this report -- we have made no recommendations to anybody to stop the building. We were asked the question merely, "Did they obtain value for money?" and that is the question that we tried to answer.
Specifically, on page 11, I pointed out the various aspects on which they are not achieving value for money, and that is true. They have gone and gotten a $100-million mortgage at 10.25%. That is a question of value for money. They have decided to go for a single building without adequate cost-benefit analysis whether that was a justifiable decision, the new building, and they have not looked after 1991 at whether other options were available to them.
Obviously, in the letter that Richard Ellis (Canada) Inc, over the -- again, Mr Philip Smith hasn't been able to have time to sign his letter either. It's very interesting that these people write these very important letters to this committee on this $200-million office tower that didn't need to be built in the first place and the consultants who write the letters don't even sign them themselves.
But I assume that they approve the content, because on page 2 of Mr Smith's letter, under item 4, and I think this is really significant on this whole issue, it says, "Cadillac Fairview took on the task of trying to obtain financing and were only able to find one group interested...." Imagine. They could only find one group interested. It may have had something to do with the fact that there was 27 million square feet of rentable space available in this city. But anyway, they "were only able to find one group interested in spite of the quality of the project..." which I'm not debating, the quality of the project; I'm only debating the necessity.
But the next part of this sentence is wonderful. It talks about "...and the security of the WCB's financial covenant and tenancy. In fact, given the amount of money involved, we believe the terms were the best available given that no other lenders were interested in financing the project."
I just think that's hysterical. If it's such a great project, why wouldn't other lenders, especially in the economy today -- if this was such a good project, there would have had to be more than one lender interested in financing the project.
Mrs Marland: We may even see it at $13 billion before the end of this year. We're talking about an organization in this province that is in debt, whether it's $11 billion or $12 billion or $13 billion. So we're talking about a comment in a letter to this committee that says what a good deal it was and --
The Vice-Chair: Mrs Marland, I apologize for interrupting, but we now have a motion, we have an amendment to the motion, and you've given notice of another motion which can't be dealt with until after these two motions. I would suggest that since we have had considerable debate, we move --
Mrs Marland: The written motion that I've given you is that this matter be dealt with at the next meeting of this public accounts committee, with the chair of the WCB or his designate present to answer the questions of this committee as they pertain to all the questions that are raised by the auditor and by the correspondence that we've received.
As Ms Murdock said, you can't stop the building; you're going to put people out of work. There's no debating that, but I would rather see people work in this province on a project that's needed, not on a make-work project for something that isn't needed, that isn't affordable and, most importantly, is not value for money, as decided by the auditor of this province.
We forget that the auditor is not a member of any political party. The auditor is answerable to the public in this province. As far as I'm concerned, when the Provincial Auditor says that the WCB building is not value for money and that there are questions that have not been addressed, that there are analyses that have not been done, frankly, I think it's deplorable that your government signed the deal to go ahead with this project and that this project is in fact being built and, to use your own words, this building cannot be stopped.
The fact remains that today the people of this province are paying for a building that should never have been built. Frankly, when your Premier sees this motion this afternoon, you're really going to be in big trouble because I can see what fun your Premier's going to have defending a motion that says: "We won't talk about it for three years. It's a done deal. Let's not discuss it for three years. Let's forget all about it. It's been a mistake. We can't reverse it. Let's leave it where it is."
I move that the motion on the floor be amended by striking out the words "return to" in the first line and replacing them with the words "not delay dealing with" and adding to the final line after the word "report" the following words, "as to do so would be contrary to the spirit of his report," so that the new motion would read "That the standing committee on public accounts not delay dealing with the issue of the WCB's new headquarters after the WCB has reported back to this committee in 1996 as per the Provincial Auditor's recommendations in his report, as to do so would be contrary to the spirit of his report."
I submit that, Madam Chair. I don't think I have to speak to that, but I would urge you to think about it because people are going to look at this and say to themselves: "Who's in charge of the shop? What's going on down there?" I think that's the real crunch of the issue. It has nothing to do with politics at all. The crunch of the issue is, who controls the WCB? Are they accountable to anybody? Are they accountable to the public accounts committee? I think they are, but they don't think they are, apparently.
I think that's the message we have to get home loud and strong to the WCB, that they're not a kingdom unto themselves, that they don't have the right to build anything they darn well please, particularly when they're doing it, as my colleague said, with money they don't have.
The Vice-Chair: Mr Callahan, I apologize for interrupting. Mr Perruzza, since he has not had an opportunity to speak, said he would like two minutes to respond, and then I'd like to go to the vote so that we can do it in the time limit.
Mr Perruzza: Thank you very much for the opportunity. I'm going to support this motion. I don't see it as a gloom-and-doom amendment. I don't see it as something that ties this committee or the government or the minister, or anybody else for that matter, in opposition or otherwise, from being able to address this particular issue in the future in a formal forum in any way. This committee could simply bring another motion in its next session and deal with this in some other way.
I'm going to support the motion simply because I guess when I first heard of the Workers' Compensation Board building and some of the gloom and doom that was put forward by some of the people in the Legislature, I thought, is this one of the labels I want to wear on my lapel when I go to election time?
As every member, you look at some of these issues and then you inquire and you ask questions and you probe and you explore, and the rest of it. The reality is that, quite frankly, this particular deal, as was explained to me -- and obviously you can extract basically whatever information you like; that's becoming more and more clear all the time -- is basically a done deal, and it's very difficult to go back or to alter it. I don't know whether I'd be supportive of, for example, procrastinating on the jobs that this particular building is going to create.
I ask the question as to whether or not it would be worth going back and speaking to people like the vice-chair, like Wilson, like the former chair of the board, and in some cases I suspect it would even be worth going back into the deals like the Dome, for example. That's something I'd really like to look at in terms of value for money and otherwise, the kinds of things that went on with that. We can do those kinds of things, and I guess to some degree I would be supportive of that. I'd be supportive of going back and looking at Darlington and the way that decision was made. To some degree, some of these things are probing issues and they're questions that people should at some point ask, look at Darlington and the $16 billion or whatever it cost to build that facility and say, "Jeez, did we get value for money, and did the province have money at that time when they made that decision or did the province have money when the Dome was approved?"
So I'm going to support this motion, and I don't see it as a gloom-and-doom, die-tomorrow motion if it carries. I think what it says is, look, let's stop playing politics with this issue; let's move on because there's a lot of other business that this committee needs to deal with as well, along with this very important issue. If we need to bring it back in future at any point in time, then the committee has the power to do so.
Clerk of the Committee: Mr Callahan moves that the motion be amended by striking out the words "return to" and substituting the words "not delay dealing with," by adding the word "until" after the word "headquarters" and by adding the words "as to do so would be contrary to the spirit of his report" after the last word, "report."
The Vice-Chair: Perhaps if I can read Mr Callahan's writing, I'll read this over. It would therefore say, Mr Callahan's motion is, "That the standing committee on public accounts not delay dealing with the issue of the WCB's new headquarters until after the WCB has reported back to this committee in 1996 as per the Provincial Auditor's recommendation in his report, as to do so would be contrary to the spirit of his report."
The Vice-Chair: We now move on to Mr Duignan's motion, the main motion, which is, "That the standing committee on public accounts return to the issue of the WCB's new headquarters after the WCB has reported back to this committee in 1996 as per the Provincial Auditor's recommendation in his report."
The Vice-Chair: The public accounts committee is back in session. Just very briefly, before we go to the vote, I want to clarify an issue which was raised earlier. Mr Phillips had made a motion to defer and to table a motion in the middle, and we weren't quite certain whether that was in order. We have checked with the table upstairs and they said that if there is a motion for deferral it is not in order unless there is unanimous consent. So we did not vote on it, it was inappropriate, and I apologize for not being up on the rules to know that at the time.
The Vice-Chair: -- but she had a further motion, which I had referred to earlier, that we would be doing three votes. One was on the amendment, the second on the main motion and the third was on Mrs Marland's motion. Have those been distributed? Could I ask the clerk to distribute those so members can have a chance to read them before we vote on them, and then we will go to the vote.
Mr Stockwell: Okay, the other question I had was, considering that Ms Marland isn't here, can I be considered moving the motions in her place if they're not in order? They're in order, though, I take it, even though she's not here.
We are going to deal with Mr Duignan's motion and then, following Mr Duignan's motion, Mr Stockwell may read Mrs Marland's motion into the record and then I will make a ruling on whether it's in order at that time.
Mr Stockwell: Okay, and just for a point of clarification from the auditor, could I ask him -- and this is a point of clarification on the motion before us -- what this motion that the government has moved means with respect to his ability to report out in future --
Mr Stockwell: I understand. I just was hoping that they would allow me a brief question of the auditor to find out what this means with respect to him reporting on the WCB construction in the future, that's all.
The Vice-Chair: We will now vote on the motion by Mr Duignan that the standing committee on public accounts return to the issue of the WCB's new headquarters after the WCB has reported back to this committee in 1996, as per the Provincial Auditor's recommendation in his report. I think we actually already decided it was a recorded vote.
I move that the chair of the WCB or his designate be requested to appear before the public accounts committee at the next meeting of this committee in order so the committee members and the auditor may question the July 21, 1993, response from the WCB and the consultants' letters on the subject.
The Vice-Chair: Mr Stockwell, I have conferred with our clerk and the Assistant Clerk of the House, and they have said that this motion is in order; that in fact the original motion which was just passed by Mr Duignan says that the standing committee return to the issue after the WCB has reported back to the committee in 1996. It does not preclude the committee dealing with the issue prior to 1996. That is how the table has interpreted this.
Mr Stockwell: You've kicked it under the carpet. Don't tell me. You kicked it under the carpet. Don't try and blame it on me. If you want a coverup, tell everybody -- don't blame me. You just voted for a motion that said: "Kick this under the carpet. We don't want to deal with it. It's too bloody embarrassing."
Mr Perruzza: Madam Chair, they can raise it any time they want. That's how we deal with it. Gerry, you can bring it up any time you like in future. Bob can bring it up any time he likes. Chris, despite his grandstanding, can bring it up any time he likes.
Mr Phillips: Madam Chair, Mr Perruzza said we can bring it up any time. The committee just rejected the chair of WCB coming and that was rejected, so that when we tried to bring it up to deal with it, the majority members voted us down, so you cannot say we can bring it up any time and then when we bring it up, reject any opportunity to discuss it. This is really a travesty. Any objective person looking at it can only conclude --
The Vice-Chair: Madam Chair rules that the agenda is shot to hell, Mr Perruzza. I think at this stage, because Mr Duignan's motion has passed, that the steering committee will have to decide what to do with the rest of the agenda for the summer.