Committee Transcripts: Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs - 2000-Nov-30 - Organizational Meeting

Organizational Meeting
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SUBCOMMITTEE REPORT

CONTENTS

Thursday 30 November 2000

Subcommittee report

STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS

Chair / Président
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex PC)

Vice-Chair / Vice-Président

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland PC)

Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington PC)
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex PC)
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West / -Ouest ND)
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland PC)
Mr Monte Kwinter (York Centre / -Centre L)
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill PC)
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt L)
Mr David Young (Willowdale PC)

Clerk / Greffière

Ms Susan Sourial

Staff / Personnel

Mr David Rampersad, research officer,
Research and Information Services

The committee met at 1001 in room 151.

SUBCOMMITTEE REPORT

The Chair (Mr Marcel Beaubien): Since we have a quorum and it is after 10 o'clock, I'll bring the committee meeting to order. We are here to consider the report of the subcommittee, so the first order of business would be for someone to move and then to read the minutes of the subcommittee report into the record.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I move it. I gather we read the entire thing.

The Chair: Yes, please.

Mr Phillips: Your subcommittee on committee business met on Monday, November 20, 2000, and recommends the following with respect to pre-budget consultations:

(1) That the Minister of Finance be offered two hours in which to make a presentation and answer questions from the three parties (30 minutes per party).

(2) That staff in the Ministry of Finance be offered 60 minutes in which to make a presentation. Following this presentation, the three parties will each be offered 20 minutes to ask questions and make statements.

(3) That the Chair should forward, as soon as possible, to the three House leaders the committee's request to meet during the upcoming recess. Specifically, the committee would like to meet from February 13 to February 16 and from February 19 to February 22, 2001.

(4) That the committee intends to travel to Thunder Bay, Ottawa and London.

(5) That an advertisement be placed for one day in a major paper of each of the cities to which the committee intends to travel. Advertisements must be placed in both English and French papers if possible. An advertisement will also be placed on the Ontario parliamentary channel and on the committee's Internet page.

(6) That the newspaper advertisement will be sent out as soon as possible in December.

(7) That interested people who wish to be considered to make an oral presentation should contact the committee clerk by January 5, 2001, at 5:00 pm.

(8) That the deadline for written submissions is February 2, 2001.

(9) That each party will provide the clerk with a prioritized list of four expert witnesses on or before December 15, 2000. The clerk will attempt to schedule the two highest priority witnesses from each list.

(10) That on January 9, 2001, the clerk will supply each of the three parties with a list of all the potential witnesses who have requested to appear before the committee.

(11) That each party will supply the clerk of the committee with a prioritized list of the names and phone numbers of the deputants they would like to hear from in any given location. These deputants must be selected from the original list distributed by the clerk to the subcommittee members. The list provided by each party will be provided to the clerk by January 16, 2001.

(12) The clerk will schedule witnesses from the prioritized lists provided by each of the three parties. Each party is entitled to select the same number of witnesses.

(13) That expert witnesses will be offered 60 minutes in which to make a presentation; groups will be offered 30 minutes in which to make a presentation and individuals will be offered 15 minutes in which to make a presentation. The Chair and/or the subcommittee may modify these times.

(14) That if all groups can be scheduled in a given location the clerk can proceed to schedule all interested parties, and therefore no party list is required for that location.

(15) That the research officer will send out a draft report to the committee members on March 19, 2001.

(16) That the committee will meet on Thursday, March 22, 2001, for report writing.

(17) That witnesses' expenses will not be reimbursed.

The Chair: Mr Phillips has moved the minutes of the subcommittee report. Any discussion?

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Do you want a seconder before we go ahead or do you have one?

The Chair: No, we don't need to second it.

Mr Galt: May I raise a couple of points?

The Chair: You certainly may.

Mr Galt: One has to do with the dates of sitting and the other has to do with locations that we are going to visit. I'm looking in my organizer, and it tells me that February 16 is a Friday. In rural Ontario they look for the member around on Friday. I understand it is rather important that the starting date be the 13th. I'm not locked in, but I'm just wondering if it could be at least considered that, rather than February 16, we maybe meet the week of the 26th or 27th to make up for that day. If the other members feel the same way, great. If they feel they want to do it straight through, I can work with it. I'm just wondering if they've really looked at the calendar and seen that-

The Chair: If I may reply to that, Mr Galt-

Mr David Young (Willowdale): David Christopherson was here and he seemed to think Valentine's Day was, I shouldn't say this publicly, February 22, so we were working around that. Anyway, never mind.

The Chair: But the reason why we're meeting on-you make a very valid point with regard to Friday, but we didn't want to spread the meetings over a period of three weeks. We were trying to compress it so that we could get the job done, as opposed to dragging it on. Basically, that was the intent of the subcommittee, why we decided we would meet on the Friday. It's a very valid point that you're making.

Mr Galt: I wanted to raise it. There were concerns made and I certainly recognize the democratic process, if others are comfortable with it. I don't have anything on that day right now, so we'll just block it out. I just thought I'd raise it.

The other one: last time, we went to some of the smaller communities, like Kenora and Brockville, and I notice we're going this time to Thunder Bay, Ottawa, London. It's sort of the standard circle. It's very blasé in those communities when you go in. If we go to Kenora, Brockville-I'm trying to remember some of the other ones we went to-

The Chair: Chatham.

Mr Galt: Yes, Chatham-they get quite excited that there's a legislative committee in town. It's a big news day. You know, the opposition gets a chance to roll out their goods. I'm trying to help them out.

Seriously, Chair, I think that looking at some of the medium-sized communities has some advantage. We go to Thunder Bay, Ottawa, London. I know they are rather strategic, but maybe we should think of, I don't know, Dryden, Kingston, Niagara Falls, Brantford or something.

The Chair: Again, that's a point, Mr Galt, that we did discuss in the subcommittee, but we felt that we would alternate between the smaller centres one year and then go to the larger regional centres the following year so that we had a balance as to what is going on. You know, the Ottawa region because you've got the high-tech; you've got a lot of economic activity. The subcommittee felt that since we went to the smaller centres last year, we should look at the larger regions this year, and then probably go to the smaller centres next year. That was the thinking and the rationale behind it.

Mr Galt: Do we have that etched in stone for next year?

The Chair: I don't know who's going to be Chair or who's going to be on the subcommittee, but I'm sure that we can probably pass the feeling of this committee to the following committee.

Mr Galt: Gerry will be here. Gerry will be on the committee.

Mr Phillips: I'm afraid I might.

Mr Young: Mr Chair, if Dr Galt is done with his comment, I'd like to move a number of amendments, if I may. I certainly would welcome your guidance and the guidance of staff as to the best way in which to table them. What I was going to propose is that I simply proceed down the-

The Chair: Do them one at a time.

Mr Young: One at a time? OK. That may be the easiest. The first relates to the time that the Minister of Finance will be available on Tuesday, February 13, 2001, and I would like to amend the subcommittee conclusions to read as follows:

"The Minister of Finance will be available on Tuesday, February 13, 2001, for one hour to present and answer questions from the three parties."

I'm certainly prepared to go over the history of appearances by finance ministers over the years, and it's my view that the proposal that I have now put forward accords with the history over the last number of years. There have been some years when the Minister of Finance has been present for a greater period of time and there have been some years when the Minister of Finance has not been present at all. So it's my view that this would be a reasonable period of time and I move that as an amendment.

The Chair: So on February 13, the minister would be present for one hour to make his presentation and answer questions.

Mr Young: Yes.

The Chair: I wonder if I should get out of the normal procedure because Mr Christopherson is not here. He's at a meeting in the House leaders' office. If we went through all the amendments, maybe we could recess for a couple of minutes while I go up and explain it to him, as opposed to coming back and-would that be OK?

Mr Young: Whatever you prefer.

Mr Phillips: He's indicated to me orally, and I know that he has to you, that he's in agreement with it as it is. If there are any substantive changes-I've mentioned that there'll be the normal amendment to one hour, but if there are any other substantive changes, we probably should discuss them with him. If not, I think he's kind of given us his proxy vote.

The Chair: We'll put this one in abeyance and go to your second one.

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Mr Young: Just to be clear before we move on, I'm proposing that instead of 30 minutes per party, be offered, 10 to 15 minutes per party be offered during that period of time, so you have that in brackets, the 30-minute-

The Chair: That would be changed to 15 minutes?

Mr Young: Yes.

The Chair: OK.

Mr Young: The next one I don't think is very controversial, but if we skip down to point 3-I'm sorry. I'm content with point 3. Should we have a further discussion about the timetable, though? It appears in a number of different points. I have some concerns that it now being almost the beginning of December, we are setting a relatively short period of time for individuals and groups to get back to us. If we go through the list here-let me go through them one at a time.

Decision 7, I guess, is an example of that. We see that interested parties are to contact the committee clerk by January 5. I'm wondering whether we should extend that to January 12 or January 17. I don't know if there's any great concern about that, but it is of some concern to me as I look at it again.

The Chair: That's on number-

Mr Young: I think that first appears at number 7.

The Chair: You're suggesting January 12?

Mr Young: January 12 or 17.

Mr Galt: Excuse me, Chair. Is there any reason it has to be early, as long as we know a couple of weeks ahead?

The Chair: That's about the same timeline we had last year.

Mr Galt: I can certainly empathize with the comments being made, giving them a little more time.

Mr Phillips: Generally speaking, I'm for more time. I can't remember what it was. I thought it might have been a staff thing, for scheduling reasons.

The Chair: What are you suggesting, January 12 or 17?

Mr Young: Why don't we take January 17?

Mr Phillips: I'm fine with that.

Mr Galt: That still gives you almost a month to select and line them up.

Mr Young: I think we have agreement on that.

If we move on to decision 9, this is a matter of logistics for those who might wish to become involved in this process. I'm proposing that we consider a time extension. We're now talking about hearing back from parties by December 15, which is essentially two weeks from now. I'd suggest maybe we push that off to December 22, again to give them a little more time.

The Chair: December 22, OK. That's on number 9.

Mr Young: If we are going to modify 7 and 9, I guess we also have to give some consideration to decision 10, since in decision 10 we're asking the clerk to supply each of the three parties with a list of potential witnesses. If we've extended the date, as we have done, to January 17, it may be difficult for the clerk to get back to us on January 9.

Mr Galt: They can do impossible things.

Mr Young: They're a very capable crew, but that might be too much to ask for. Can we then say that maybe the clerk get back to us by-

Mr Galt: January 20?

Mr Young: Sure. I was going to say the 19th. I think the 20th may be a weekend, but I'm in their hands as to what would work for them. Is the 20th a Saturday?

Clerk of the Committee (Ms Susan Sourial): It's a Saturday. January 19 is a Friday.

The Chair: What about the Monday or Tuesday?

Mr Galt: Make it January 22.

The Chair: Is that OK? January 19 seems to be satisfactory.

Mr Young: Mr Phillips, are you content?

Mr Phillips: Yes, I'm very comfortable with that.

Mr Young: Just a couple more on scheduling. Decision 11, as I go through this, should be modified because we were talking in terms of January 16 in the original motion.

The Chair: So it should be the 19th again?

Mr Young: I'm in your hands and the hands of the clerk, whatever they feel is most appropriate.

Clerk of the Committee: January 19 is for me to provide the list to the members. It states in point 11 that the parties that come back-

Mr Young: Fair enough. Then the question is to us. What date do you want to choose? Do you want to choose-it would be too late, I guess, if we went to the 27th. Do you want to say something like the 24th or the 25th?

Mr Phillips: Either day is fine.

Mr Young: Why don't we go with the 25th?

Mr Phillips: I don't have any difficulty with any of those, apart from number 1, obviously.

Mr Young: I need some clarification on decision 13. I know we talk in terms of the Chair being able to modify times. Can you help me, Mr Chair, with whether that modification can be made once the hearings begin?

The Chair: No. I think basically what we did last year was agree we would stick to the scheduled presenters with the same time references they had. As Chair, I would personally not prefer having the authority to change the times or the speakers. I think that once the schedule is set, it should be cast in stone. That way I can remain impartial and it makes my decision-making process a heck of a lot easier.

Mr Young: OK. Go ahead, Doug.

Mr Galt: I was just going to query about the expert witnesses. I gather the deputy minister would be one of the expert witnesses?

The Chair: Economists from the banks, and I don't know who else.

Mr Phillips: Normally, Doug-Dr Galt-it's not the bureaucracy. Each of us submits a list of, normally, bank economists-Sherry Cooper, someone like that-who we think are knowledgeable outside experts. I think expert witnesses are outside the employment of the civil service.

Mr Galt: But we will have the ministry, the deputy minister on the following Tuesday-

Mr Phillips: Yes, they're there on the following Tuesday. The Tuesday is when the minister and the-

Mr Young: Deputy.

Mr Phillips: In the morning, I think, and then the ministry staff. Then we move into the outside witnesses.

Mr Galt: So how many of these experts? Is this something each party will select, or is it historical?

Mr Phillips: Historically we've had six of them over part of a three-day period.

Mr Galt: You'd think I could remember back to last year, wouldn't you?

Mr Phillips: I think they tend to always be bank economists or economists of financial institutions of some sort.

The Chair: And the independent business people, I think.

Mr Young: Those are the amendments I wish to put forward.

The Chair: OK. Thank you.

Mr Galt: We would be looking at one day per community that we're visiting?

The Chair: That's right.

Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill): Just to clarify, those who will be speaking under point 13 are all outside people; they're not from the government?

The Chair: That's correct.

Mrs Molinari: Is this consistent with what we did last year-the 60 minutes for-

The Chair: Yes.

Mrs Molinari: Is there a limit on how many expert witnesses will be having that 60-minute slot?

The Chair: Two per party. There will be six.

Mrs Molinari: So there will be a maximum of six?

The Chair: Six.

Mrs Molinari: OK.

The Chair: Any other questions?

Mr Phillips: I have no difficulty with all the amendments, other than number 1. I just make the point that at some stage we should try to make these committees work. I'm not blaming any particular party, but it really is unusual that the finance and economic affairs committee-I think the finance minister is here only one hour a year. I don't think he has come for any of his bills. I don't think he has ever appeared, that I can recall, in the last two or three years, other than for one hour at pre-budget, which gives each party maybe 15 minutes and maybe two questions to him.

I would have thought the finance minister would actually welcome an opportunity to have a good discussion with a legislative committee on economic and financial issues. Maybe it's a bit cruel to say it, but I think he spent six hours with Tiger Woods, and that's more time in total than he spent with our committee since he became finance minister.

I know that we in the opposition have no power to overturn this thing, but at some stage I think we should say that surely, as an all-party legislative committee trying to deal with the economy and finance, we are owed more than a total of one hour by the finance minister. I'm sure he will make a 15-minute presentation and, as I said, each party may get two questions to him and then like a phantom he's gone for another year, never to be seen again. I think it's unfortunate and kind of makes a bit of a sham of what should be a good debate with the finance minister on economic and fiscal policy.

1020

Mrs Molinari: Talk to the PA about it.

Mr Young: That's apparently the safe-

The Chair: Mr Young.

Mr Young: By the way, thanks for mentioning that the other day. Not that I intend to convince the previous speaker of the fact that he's wrong but, for the record, let me briefly say that we've had this discussion before. We've talked about what was done by other finance ministers and members of other parties when this committee was conducting very similar business. It's my view that the proposal I have put forward is consistent with the activities of earlier years and other ministers.

In fact, there are some years where ministers have chosen not to show at all. We could argue as to whether or not two hours is the appropriate number and whether that would allow for a fulsome debate or whether or not one hour is the appropriate number. But clearly we have a disagreement. I think that everyone around this table understands that the Minister of Finance, the Deputy Premier, has numerous responsibilities. They are many in number and also of great importance, and the fact that he isn't in one place for a particular period of time requested by an opposition party whose job it is to oppose-it should be considered in that context. I'm quite comfortable that we will have the debate that should be had if my amendment is passed.

The Chair: Mr Phillips, I'm going to have to consult-do you want to respond?

Mr Phillips: I know he's a very busy guy and that he could barely spare six or seven hours for Tiger Woods. That doesn't wash, that "he's a very busy guy." I'm in opposition but I'm a duly elected member of the Legislature. This is an all-party committee set up to try and deal with financial and economic issues. My job is more than to oppose. My job is to try-and our job here in the Legislature, this legislative committee. Our job is not to oppose; it's to attempt to provide the Legislature with some advice. Let's just cut to the chase. He won't show up for more than an hour and so it's the end of the debate. I don't think there's any logical reason why he won't come for more than an hour. It's unfortunate, because I think the public expects that there's a reasoned discussion around fiscal and economic policy. It doesn't occur in question period, by the way. That's just a question-and-answer period. There's no discussion and debate and opportunity to exchange ideas. So there it is.

Mr Young: I feel compelled to say one last thing and I promise, regardless of any response that may come from Mr Phillips, that I won't reply any further.

Mr Phillips: That gives me a good opening.

Mr Young: If you don't take this one, I'll be disappointed, Gerry.

In fact we do take this committee very seriously, and I think that is why there are four members of the government here today, all individuals who are duly elected and who are very capable people. You know, there's only one member of the opposition party present. We certainly are pleased that Mr Phillips is here. But as we look for standards to assess whether or not we take this process seriously, I would ask anyone who cares to consider today's proceeding and the proceeding of this committee generally to consider the attendance at this proceeding.

The Chair: Since we have a somewhat proxy vote here from Mr Christopherson, I'm going to ask for your input. Do you think-I did talk to Mr Christopherson yesterday and I don't think there's any problem with (7), (9) and (11). I think he would be receptive to that. What about to (1)?

Mr Phillips: I think he would feel as we feel, that the amendment is inappropriate, so I don't know how you record it. In fairness to Mr Christopherson, the reason he isn't here is that he has many hats and I think it's unfair to criticize him for not being here. He told all of us he couldn't be here, because of the House leaders. He said if there were any reason we needed him on an urgent basis, we could go and get him out.

The Chair: I have to concur with that, because we had the same conversation.

Mr Phillips: I just think it's an unfortunate situation, him not being here, but I think in fairness to him, he made his position clear and said if we needed him, he'd come right away.

The Chair: I guess we'll proceed with voting on the amendments and we'll go back to number 1.

Mr Young has moved that the Minister of Finance, on February 13, be offered one hour to present and answer questions, and in the brackets, as opposed to being 30 minutes, that would be changed to 15 minutes per party. Am I correct? Is there any further discussion on that? If not, all those in favour? Opposed? The amendment carries.

We'll go to amendment number 7. Mr Young has moved that the date of January 5 be changed to January 17, 2001. Is that correct, Mr Young?

Mr Young: I actually gave my notes to the clerk, but I believe that is correct.

The Chair: Is there any further discussion on that motion? If not, all those in favour? That carries unanimously.

We'll go to number 9. Mr Young has moved that the date be changed from December 15 to December 22. Somebody is having a birthday on that day. Is there any further discussion on that? If not, all those in favour? Opposed? The motion carries unanimously.

Mr Young: We'll still be sitting on the 22nd, won't we?

The Chair: That's correct.

I think you moved on number 10. I wrote over it. I think it's that the date be changed from January 9 to January 19.

Mr Young: Yes.

The Chair: Any further discussion on that? If not, all those in favour? Opposed? The motion carries unanimously.

Number 11, that the date at the end of the paragraph be changed from January 16 to January 25. Is that correct?

Mr Young: Yes.

The Chair: Any further discussion? If not, all those in favour? Opposed? The motion carries unanimously.

We'll need a motion to approve the-

Mr Galt: Just one query. It probably doesn't need to be in here, but the time of day that we'll be sitting, is there a tradition?

The Chair: Usually around 10 o'clock, I think, until 5 or 5:30.

Mr Galt: I think we need to establish the time, at least verbally, whether it's in the minutes or not. I think 10 o'clock is kind of late, isn't it? Gerry, is there a tradition?

Mr Phillips: Well, Ernie doesn't like to get here before 10.

The Chair: The clerk tells me that if we're in Toronto, we usually start at 9, and on the road usually around 10.

Mr Young: Yes, but I think that first Tuesday, we're going to start at 10.

Mr Phillips: I would think so, yes.

The Chair: I'm sure we can provide the scheduling ahead of time.

Mr Phillips: We wouldn't want to get him up too early.

Mr Young: We get our briefs ready in the early morning and then get ready to go.

The Chair: We need to vote on the amended subcommittee report.

Mr Galt: So the time in Toronto will be 10 until 5 o'clock?

The Chair: Until 5 or 6 o'clock.

Mr Galt: From 10 until 6?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr Galt: And on the road, 9 until 5?

The Chair: The other way around. I would say that in Toronto, it would probably be more like 9 to 5 or 9 to 6, and on the road it would be 10 to 5.

Mr Galt: Oh, Toronto would be 9 to 5.

The Chair: It depends on the flight connections sometimes. If you recall last year-where was it?-in Kenora, we had to end the meeting at 4:30, if I recall.

Mr Galt: So basically, the time that's important is in Toronto. When we're on the road, it's-

The Chair: That's right. I think we can leave that with the clerk to coordinate the times, but in Toronto, it's usually 9 to 5.

Mr Galt: Are we travelling the last three days or have we decided on that?

The Chair: On the 18th we're in Ottawa, I think, right?

Clerk of the Committee: Friday, the 16th, we're in Thunder Bay; Monday, the 19th, in Ottawa; and Tuesday, the 20th, in London.

Mr Galt: Can we fly direct from Ottawa to London?

Mr Young: We probably cannot. We can look into that but what we thought we might do is-and we can talk about this afterwards-after we complete our hearings in Ottawa, we would fly to Toronto, in all likelihood, and then simply drive or fly out to London from there. We could go right from the airport. If there's a direct flight, sure, that would be great, if we can arrange one.

The Chair: I think there is a direct flight from Ottawa to London.

Mr Young: Is there? OK. Well, maybe that's what we'll do. That would be even better.

The Chair: Yes, usually there is.

Mr Young: OK, that's what we'll do.

Mr Phillips: There are no train trips for you, Doug.

Mr Galt: Well, it was just going through my mind. We push ourselves pretty hard on these committees. We sit all day and then travel all night. I just wondered if we needed to push quite that hard.

The Chair: I don't think this will be as intense as it was last year. Last year was pretty demanding.

Mr Young: Getting a big salary increase.

Mr Galt: I was looking for compensation in a different way.

The Chair: If I can get your attention for a minute so we can bring this meeting to an end, we need to vote on the amended subcommittee report. All those in favour of the amended subcommittee report? Opposed? That carries.

I don't think we have any further business. Is there anything that members wish to raise at this point in time? If not, this committee is now adjourned.

The committee adjourned at 1033.

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