STANDING COMMITTEE ON ESTIMATES
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES BUDGETS DES DÉPENSES
Wednesday 8 June 2005 Mercredi 8 juin 2005
The Chair (Mr. Cameron Jackson): I'd like to call to order the standing committee on estimates. Welcome, members of the committee. We are here today because the government tabled its estimates, in accordance with the standing orders, on Tuesday, June 7. In accordance with the standing orders, we are going to do our selections and discuss any business that you may wish to raise. I'm led to believe that Monday may be our last day, so it's important that we report this to the House tomorrow, because we won't have an opportunity to have another meeting. Are there any questions from members of the committee about the process of selection?
The Chair: We're going to select first. Usually, we start with the order and then discuss the frequency of meeting and so on and so forth, and/or we can let the subcommittee do that if it deviates too terribly far from the process. So if there are no questions about the selection and the order of selection, then the standing orders are very clear.
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): I do have a question, just for clarification on the sequence of the rounds. On each round, we have to fill up 15 hours. Is that all three parties or the party that speaks first? Then you could divide the 15 hours by three ministries, by five ministries or whatever.
The Chair: This is the standing order, and you will see in 59(b)(ii): "In each round, the members of each party may choose the estimates of one or two ministries or offices to be considered." You can choose up to two for a total of not more than 15 hours. You could choose health at eight or nine hours and the Premier's office at four or five, or whichever is your interest.
Mr. O'Toole: We would select, in our first round, the public infrastructure renewal ministry. Our second choice would be, of course, the Ministry of Health. If I have to assign 15 hours, I would take health as a full eight hours, and the remaining seven would be to public infrastructure, where billions of dollars are going to be spent by the private sector in P3 initiatives, so we want to know more about that.
The Chair: So in the first round, for those of you who are keeping a ledger, if some have fallen off or reappeared on your list: Public infrastructure will be seven hours, followed by health at eight, children's services at seven and a half, finance at seven and a half, training, colleges and universities at seven and a half and citizenship at seven and a half.
First will be public infrastructure renewal for seven hours. Second will be health and long-term care for eight hours. Third will be children and youth services at seven and a half hours. Fourth will be finance at seven and a half hours. Fifth will be training, colleges and universities at seven and a half hours. Sixth will be citizenship and immigration at seven and a half hours. Seventh will be agriculture and food at seven and a half hours. Transportation will be number 8, seven and a half hours. Number 9 will be education, seven and a half hours. Ten will be energy at seven and a half hours. Eleven will be tourism and recreation at seven and a half. Northern development will be 12, and it will be for seven and a half hours.
David is here because if you need assistance with some research or some information, or if you have requests of ministers, once these are filed with the House and tabled, then you are free to begin the process of seeking information. If you need assistance, David is here to help us. That's why the service is here; use it, if you so choose.
About a month ago, I wrote a letter to the three House leaders requesting -- let me back up. It had come to my attention that we were proroguing and that the government wasn't coming back in accordance with the House calendar. In fact, it was going to come back after Thanksgiving. So it will be the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. I think that's October 14, if memory serves me correctly. That would shave three weeks off the normal meeting time for this committee. I wrote to the House leaders requesting, as I've done many times in the past, additional sitting time during the intersession. I requested two weeks, about eight days, so it'd be Monday through Thursday. In all likelihood, that would be in September, not in July or August, being mindful of the ministers' need to have a vacation -- and that of the committee members, for that matter, but more importantly, the ministers'. They historically have appreciated if they're not disrupted in that period in July and August. That is given to you for information. I have nothing to report, in an absolute fashion, in terms of whether or not we've been granted it, but I'm led to believe that we will get our two weeks.
Historically, we start at 9 in the morning and go until 4, but we can go until 5. It's up to the committee, but we can play that by ear. The reason I say that is that if we've got one hour left on a given day, what I've done as Chair is said, "OK, let's take a half-hour lunch" -- and the government may want to take 20 minutes off, and we'll negotiate, and then the minister and everyone else doesn't have to come back the next day. Historically, I've appreciated that flexibility, out of courtesy to the minister, in particular, because it really is difficult sometimes to have to come back just for an hour or two.
The Chair: Well, we don't know an actual date. We'll be notifying each of the ministries, obviously, and they'll read it in Hansard, but we will officially notify them through our clerk's office and wait until the House leaders know. This will all reveal itself, either tomorrow or Monday, when we table the motion, because House leaders will have agreed to that by then. I don't we think we need a subcommittee meeting, but if anybody feels strongly about it, I'd recommend we do a conference call and just do business that way. It's worked in the past. If there are any concerns, we'll do it that way, but otherwise, we'll all go to Hamilton, my old hometown, and have a meeting there.
Mr. O'Toole: I'm a little concerned. I just want to put this on the record, actually. I'd referred Bill 137 to this committee -- Ms. Di Cocco, I think, is the point person on this -- and several times found very questionable excuses for not meeting. On three occasions, I think the clerk was contacted. I want this on the record, as I'm very disappointed that bill was denied public hearings on a very important public policy issue. With that, I would move that the meeting be closed.
The Chair: However, if we could maybe deal with the business at hand, we do have a bill referred to this committee. If you're asking what the current status of it is, if you have a motion, Mr. O'Toole, to deal with that, then you can raise. But hearing none, I will --
Mr. O'Toole: Chair, if we're going to make it that way, a note was sent. The clerk was quite advised; I had spoken with the clerk. I find it an affront and I find it insulting to have it implied that I was personally attacking you. Your committee, your House leader knew. They denied attendance to that committee -- not you personally; that has nothing to do with it.
My point is this: There are four members sitting over there. That bill was doing nothing more than receiving public hearings. To be treated that way, in a high-handed, disrespectful way, I find to be less than parliamentary. I find that attitude, that somehow I'm an insensitive beast and everyone else is above reproach, unacceptable and typical of your treatment of opposition and third-party members.
I'm very discouraged by this process. I hope this is required and recorded, because you knew quite well -- that bill, Bill 137, was very high up on the preference list and now, thanks to your -- I would say "barrier" -- creating an artificial barrier, it denies the people of Ontario a benefit. And I'm being treated like somehow I'm the insensitive person. You should look in the mirror at who is really insensitive on this thing.