STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES COMPTES PUBLICS
Monday 9 February 2004 Lundi 9 février 2004
The Chair (Mr Norman W. Sterling): Good morning. My name is Norm Sterling. I'm the Chair of the public accounts committee. I'd like to welcome Murray Segal, the deputy minister of the Attorney General. Also we have Jim McCarter, the acting Provincial Auditor with us, along with some of his staff. I'll ask you, Deputy, to introduce the people you have with you, and invite any opening comments you might have.
Mr Murray Segal: Thank you, Mr Chair and members. My name is Murray Segal. I am the acting Deputy Attorney General. I'm pleased to be here today. I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the recommendations of the Provincial Auditor. I would like to take the opportunity, Mr Chair, to acknowledge you because, while at the helm of the Ministry of the Attorney General, you, as all Attorneys General, have faced the very issues that I will be addressing today. You are very familiar with those issues and the complexities of the justice system and the challenges inherent in ensuring the timely administration of justice.
Joining me today is the assistant Deputy Attorney General, court services, Debra Paulseth; assistant Deputy Attorney General, corporate services management division, Stephen Rhodes; and John McMahon, director of crown operations, Toronto region. They're here, of course, to provide more detailed information as necessary.
I'd like to start off by giving you a brief overview of how the justice system is administered in this province and to provide some background with respect to the comments I'm about to make. I'd like to review some of the key points in the Provincial Auditor's report, including case backlog, court administration and information technology, and what the ministry is doing to address these important issues.
By way of overview, the ministry's court services division and the judiciary are together responsible for administration in the courts. The ministry provides a wide range of justice services, and the judiciary manages certain aspects of the administration of those services, including scheduling and assigning of judges and justices of the peace. The relationship between the ministry and the judiciary is unique. The relationship is interdependent, yet independent of one another. As we are all aware, judicial independence is a fundamental principle of the legal system and is constitutionally guaranteed.
The justice system is affected by a number of other players who are, and must be, independent of the ministry: police, lawyers, Legal Aid Ontario, children's aid societies, and civil and family litigation plaintiffs, to name some. All of these players have a significant role in the administration of justice. They have a significant impact on the demand on the system, an impact that the ministry cannot entirely control.
Our court system in this province is the largest and busiest in Canada. Ontario courts hear over half a million criminal charges each year and about 270,000 civil and family cases. Court services are delivered by over 3,000 court staff, and judicial services are provided by more than 1,000 judicial officers at several levels of court. The ministry accommodates these services in over 250 locations throughout the province, occupying in excess of five million square feet of space.
The courts are closely linked to other parts of the justice system, including prosecutors, victim services, police and correctional services. The issues covered in the Provincial Auditor's report are also closely linked; one cannot look at one area without examining the others.
I would like to begin with backlog. So what is backlog? First, I want to clarify what is meant by that word. In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada released a decision called Askov. The court held that any person charged with an offence has the right to be tried within a reasonable time. That decision was anchored on clause 11(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It set out that most cases should be tried within eight months of the trial date being set. After some difficult days between October 1990 and September 1991, when over 47,000 charges were stayed or withdrawn, the court clarified that the eight-month marker is only a guideline, and just because a charge has been in the system for eight months does not mean, in and of itself, that it is in danger of being stayed, withdrawn or dismissed.
To illustrate: In fiscal year 2002-03, the Ontario Court of Justice received 585,000 adult criminal charges. By October 2003, 86,000 charges had been in the system for over eight months. Yet fewer than 40 cases had been dismissed due to unreasonable delay as a result of a defence application to stay, arising out of purely systemic delay.
All cases require a certain amount of time during which things get settled out. We call it an intake period. That's where preliminary matters such as retaining counsel directly or through legal aid, receiving disclosure of the case to be met, and pre-trial discussions between counsel and the court are dealt with. The time required for this intake period will vary, depending on many factors including, and especially, the complexity of the charges. So at any given time there will be a significant inventory of charges in the system that are not in danger of being stayed.
Regarding the causes of delay, in the Askov case the Supreme Court of Canada made it clear that the delay must be unreasonable and must be largely attributable to the crown. Factors that the court considers when deciding this include: the explanation for the delay; whether or not the accused has waived or caused any of the delay; whether or not the accused has suffered prejudice as a result of the delay; whether or not actions of the crown or the accused have led to the delay; and, of course, society's interest in the charges going ahead. The court must balance these and other factors, and each case must be decided on its own merits.
The courts have reinforced that criminal matters must be dealt with within a reasonable time frame. We are vigilant, and we must remain vigilant to ensure we are doing everything we can so that cases are heard on their merits. Delay is an issue. We must address it, and we are addressing it.
However, the causes of delay are varied, complex and interrelated. Trials are becoming longer and legally more complex, due in part to a substantial increase in the number of charter motions brought by the defence, particularly in the areas of impaired driving and sexual assault, but not restricted to those areas. Some government policies and legislative initiatives and police actions and prosecution policies result in additional court time. For example, additional victim supports and a focus on domestic violence are well-placed concerns, and they too may factor into increased court time.
The number of charges received in various court locations has also increased for many reasons. In general, the hiring of more front-line police officers has a tendency to increase the number of charges coming into the system. This would particularly be true in the greater Toronto area, where the ever-growing population has increased pressure on the justice system. The Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act are pieces of federal legislation and beyond provincial jurisdiction. Creation of new offences and changes to criminal procedure can also lead to pressures on the system. The reclassification of many offences in the Criminal Code permitting the crown to decide to have these offences dealt with in the Ontario court rather than the superior court may cause further pressure on the lower court. Although the Ontario court did hear preliminary hearings for the superior court matters before, and still does to some extent, preliminary inquiries tend to be shorter in length and therefore do not consume as much as trial time.
As this illustrates only briefly, the court system is demand-driven and it is impacted by a large number of factors beyond the absolute control of the ministry. However, we are taking many steps to address the issue of timely administration of justice. In co-operation with the judiciary, we have set up mobile blitz courts. Additional judges and crown attorneys and court staff are assigned to sites with the greatest number of criminal charges and go into those sites for periods of three or six months, providing a flexible response in our areas of greatest need. For example, blitz courts are planned for Barrie and Milton starting in April, and recent blitz courts were located in Ottawa and Brampton. We meet regularly with the judiciary to have appropriate administrative discussions so that we can keep an eye on emerging trends and try to stay ahead of potential difficulties.
We have been pressing and moving ahead on early pre-trial conferences between crown counsel and the defence to review issues and come to agreement, as appropriate, as soon as possible. We want to cut down on both the number of cases being tried and the number of issues that are outstanding and therefore cut down on the number of hours required for cases to be dealt with.
What about our work in particular with the judiciary? In his report, the auditor recommended that the ministry work with the judiciary and other stakeholders to develop more successful solutions to eliminate backlog. We have undertaken a number of co-operative initiatives.
First, a coordinated delay reduction initiative has recently been launched and will direct additional resources to criminal courts in areas where the delay is greatest, mostly larger urban areas. Under this initiative, the Attorney General has appointed 17 judges, comprised of seven replacement judges and 10 new judges, including two judges in Brampton, one of the busiest courts in the province. We expect and anticipate another five judges will be appointed by the end of March.
Along with those particular judicial placements, the ministry has also recently hired 26 crown attorneys, with another 13 to be hired in April, 31 case management coordinators, and 38 additional staff to support court operations and to assist victims. As part of that initiative, additional annual funding in excess of $600,000 has been provided to Legal Aid Ontario to hire an additional nine duty counsel.
In 2002 and 2003 the ministry hosted two justice summits specifically to address growing backlogs. The concept was simple and practical, yet unprecedented. Never before had all the major players in the justice system come together to look at the problem of backlog, to analyze and better understand the causes and to seek, together, innovative solutions. These summits, with input from the judiciary, the bar, the ministry, Legal Aid Ontario, children's aid societies and other ministries and agencies, have resulted in two critical pieces of work.
First, a bail and remand best-practices protocol is aimed at reducing the number of remands required before a bail hearing is held. This, in turn, helps to reduce backlog. It is currently being implemented across the province.
Second, a case management protocol will provide for a more efficient case management system to facilitate the movement of cases through the courts. It's being targeted for implementation across the province starting this spring and aims at such issues as better scheduling, meaningful appearances, timely disclosure and the like. As well, we are working on a third justice summit this spring, where next steps will be determined.
I'd like to now turn to courts administration, because in the area of general courts administration, the auditor recommended that the ministry and judiciary work together to ensure that the justice system functions effectively and efficiently by improving administrative and management procedures, specifically by establishing a process of greater co-operation in decision-making in a stronger structure of courts administration.
The court services division works closely with the judiciary in the daily administration of the courts. The division has made particular efforts over the last three years to involve the judiciary more actively in the planning and management of the courts. Representatives of the judiciary now participate in the division senior management committee and in other committees dealing with financial management, court facilities and court technology. This has led to better judicial understanding of ministry goals and policies, and a stronger voice for the judiciary in ministry activities affecting the courts.
In a speech last month at the annual opening of courts, the Attorney General stated he would re-examine courts administration to give judges a greater role in the administration of the courts. The ministry is examining options for a new governing structure for courts administration, and we expect that we will be in consultation with the judiciary in the near future.
I'd like to turn to information technology. Information technology is a common thread in all our court initiatives and a key component of any plan to improve services and reduce delay. Effective case tracking systems are essential to understanding how cases progress through the courts and for managing caseload.
The auditor recommended creating better tools to identify the sources and specific reasons for delay so that action can be taken to address potential problems in a timely manner. He also recommended that the ministry take the necessary steps to upgrade the information technologies used in the courts. The ministry has made significant progress in this regard.
We have developed a new case management system, called Frank, for all civil, family, small claims, divisional court cases and superior court criminal cases. Implementation is underway across the province.
Before Frank, these courts relied on statistics collected manually by court staff to track the flow of cases. This new system will provide better information on how the system is working. For example, it will track times for trial and other hearings, which will help us determine the best ways to improve it.
We've also begun work to improve the existing criminal case tracking system, ICON, for the high-volume courts in the Ontario Court of Justice. A recent review recommended that the system be overhauled and upgraded, and we're in the process of doing that right now. These upgrades will improve the quality and scope of the information provided by the system.
We continue to evaluate e-filing in the Toronto small claims court. This technology allows parties to file documents electronically 24/7. We're also continuing to use our model electronic courtroom, set up here in Toronto, which tests the use of in-court technology in commercial and non-jury civil matters.
Some examples of this technology include digital evidence and argument presentation, remote video and teleconference appearances and simultaneous cross-border hearings. The video remand project is in its third year and, as of today, 124 installations have been completed in courthouses, correctional facilities and police detachments across the province.
The video remand system allows accused persons to appear in court by videoconferencing from a police station or correctional facility, reducing the number of prisoners who need to be transported to courts and held in holding cells, enhancing public safety and resulting in cost savings for police services.
We've also developed a multi-year strategic information management and IT plan to define priorities and identify resource requirements. Improving the technology in courts will not only assist us in addressing issues such as backlog, but will enable us to better serve the public and deliver our court core businesses.
With respect to statistics and performance reporting, the auditor recommends that the ministry measure and regularly report on cost-effectiveness, efficiency and performance of the court services it provides. We agree, and the court services division has taken several steps to improve the way it measures its achievements and activities. Better case-tracking systems mean better statistical reports, which in turn result in better performance reporting.
We will be able to better understand, evaluate and improve the performance of the courts by refining our collection of data. We've been working to develop new statistical reports to provide for more detailed and reliable analysis. Improved reporting and analysis of court caseloads and case flow will allow us to assess resource needs more accurately.
We've also developed new standard financial reporting tools to capture court costs by case type, which will also help direct resources where they're needed the most. These financial tools will be fully implemented by April 1.
In addition, the court services division has developed a five-year strategic plan that establishes 42 service standards, business goals and multi-year priorities for the courts. This plan, which will be updated annually, was developed with the help of the judiciary and in consultation with the bar. It's included in the division's recently released annual report for 2002-03 and is part of the division's ongoing commitment to improve the accuracy, scope and accessibility of information on the division and on the operation of Ontario courts.
The Ministry of the Attorney General faces unique challenges in our delivery of efficient, effective justice services. The components of the justice system are all interdependent, and improvements in one area weave through all areas. We share the auditor's concerns about court delay and the administration of the courts. Over the past months we have taken significant action on a variety of fronts, and we are continually evaluating and updating our way of doing business, to ensure that we respond to the changing needs of the justice system. We are always exploring ways to improve what we do.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Deputy. We appreciate your remarks this morning. Just before going to questions, can I ask for one clarification in terms of the overall numbers? You said you were hearing 270,000 cases a year; I believe that was the number you used. How do you relate that to the 550,000-odd charges that are in the auditor's report and the 100,000 charges that have not been heard? Can you jig those two numbers for us?
Mr Segal: As I recall, what I indicated was that there were in excess of 500,000 criminal charges that the system confronted. The point I was trying to make was that ours is a multi-faceted system. While the auditor properly paid some attention to criminal, there are as well non-criminal cases that take a lot of resources in the court system -- civil, family and small claims -- and my reference to the second set of numbers, 270,000, was in relation to the non-criminal business.
In addition, when we speak of criminal inventory or backlog, as I recall, there was a focus by the auditor on the number of cases or charges in the system out of the half a million-plus that were considered to be in a backlog state as defined by the auditor, and they approached in the neighbourhood of 89,000. I hope that serves to clarify my remarks on statistics.
Mr Segal: As I recall, it's in excess of 200,000 cases involving in excess of 500,000 charges. Now, some of them -- you could have people getting in trouble a number of times throughout the year. We have some people who unfortunately come back, who are repeat customers, but it's over 500,000 charges and over 200,000 criminal cases.
The Chair: I think perhaps if we start with the backlog situation and try to focus questions there. I don't want to limit any member from going to other subjects, but maybe if we try to go through the backlog, the courts administration and the information technology, in that order, it might provide a better question and response kind of thing that we can focus on.
Ms Laurel C. Broten (Etobicoke-Lakeshore): Yes, I do. I want to ask a bit about the issue of the backlog. I appreciate the efforts that you've indicated are being made in respect of the backlog. I think certainly from all of us who are looking at what has happened, it causes us some concern that we've seen the backlog increase year over year. Whether my information is right or not, it looks like an accumulation of 7,000, 8,000, 10,000 each year, over the last five or six years. I guess the starting point is, we're talking about dealing with this now, but the backlog issue was raised and highlighted in 1997. From 1997 on, how did we continue to see an increase of 10,000 year over year? Where does that come from, and why has it taken us until this point in time to be seriously talking about the issue of the backlog?
Mr Segal: The issue of the backlog, as I've tried to indicate, is a complex one involving the interrelationship of a number of factors. Let me highlight a couple that might serve to shed some light, I hope, on why the increase. I can say that this is something that the ministry, year after year, tries to grapple with, in new and innovative ways, with the judiciary and other partners.
For example, in the last few years the number of criminal charges in the system has increased by 13%. That's something that is out of our control. Ours is a demand-driven system. If charges increase or the amount of crime increases or the amount of funding for police increases, which may be entirely appropriate, then we're going to see that in our system and we have to work more smartly.
Some of the answer, as we've seen and as I've remarked upon, includes addressing the issue of some additional resources, but at the same time we all have to work more smartly. Some years ago we did not have the concept of mobile or blitz courts. Now we have a significant and strong relationship with the judiciary, where, in a regular and periodic way, among all the other tools and re-engineering we're trying to engage, we address areas that are falling behind.
For example, in relation to the 13% charges, it has been remarked, including in the media somewhat recently, that the number of charges coming into the system in Brampton has, over the last three or four years, increased by 59%. That requires everyone being on their toes, working very well with each other, seeking innovative answers and the like.
I've also touched on the issue of the increasing complexity of cases and as well new pieces of federal legislation, which may present greater challenges in terms of balancing of rights and therefore the complexity of those cases.
Ms Broten: Just one follow-up question. The issue with respect to not being able to control all aspects of the system is certainly understood. As the police have additional resources to lay charges, you're going to be responding to more charges. But as someone who has functioned in the court system, we do control to an extent the ability for those who want to delay to use the system to be able to effect those purposes, in terms of the number of appearances, for example.
I'm wondering whether or not lack of information, at times, for the judiciary or the court administrators allows that to happen. You see the same folks over and over again. They just want to not move forward with their case, but put it back and I'll come back another day. Yet not everyone in the system knows that information, and it allows folks to abuse the system to some extent.
Mr Segal: That's a very interesting question. I think that one of the things that we've recently started addressing is the issue that you touched upon, which is, what are the reasons for the delay? Do we have an ability to track the reasons for delay? For example, some have said that people are languishing with respect to getting bail. What we've decided to do, and we recently did, is look at the reasons for delay, who's asking for the delay and that sort of thing. We've done that as a spot check in the bail area to see whether some of these points of view are truly fact or myth.
But what we've decided is to do a project where we improve the ICON system to track the reasons for adjournments, what's placed on the record. We're moving to do this as of this spring. I think it will give us a lot of data. Our goal is to have, as I touched upon in my opening remarks, meaningful appearances. No one wants to see appearances that are wasted. It doesn't do a lot for the administration of justice. Sometimes there are very good reasons, but we want to make sure they're always good reasons, subject to the independence of the judiciary.
Mrs Julia Munro (York North): On the question of the backlog -- and I appreciate in your comments that you've referenced the fact there are a certain number of factors over which you have no control -- I wondered whether or not you have given any consideration or there have been any pilots that would look at a more flexible court time, and whether that would use the facility in a way that would, in some way, address the issue around the backlogs?
Mr Segal: Yes, Mrs Munro. I think that what we are trying to do is ensure that the court facility during court hours is used as efficiently as possible. In other words, there is no down time, that there are methods whereby if a case collapses -- we are, after all, dealing with the human spirit. So if an accused decided, and even surprised their own defence counsel at the last minute, to plead guilty, then we would have something to fill that gap.
The issue of meaningful appearances and using court time is something that we have a working group looking at and is something that we take very seriously. When one gets into issues such as, for example -- I'm not sure if you were thinking about this, Mrs Munro -- night court and the like, it becomes a little difficult because our whole system is geared to one shift. I only work so many hours in a day; sometimes they seem very long. You only work so many hours in a day. There are collective agreements. The jails staff in a certain way -- duty counsel and the like. The key is to get the best use of all of the hours that are available in a day, and we are taking those sorts of steps.
Mrs Liz Sandals (Guelph-Wellington): It seems, from what you're telling us, that the increase in the number of police officers is quite well documented; the increase in the number of charges is quite well documented. I take it that we have a huge remand population in the prisons, but again, we've built new jails, and that's quite well documented. So we seem historically to have the increase in the police, bigger jails, more charges. Has the increase in the number of crown attorneys and the number of judges kept up with the increase in all these other facets of the system which are feeding the courts?
Mr Segal: I think that over the years, Ms Sandals, on the issue of resources within the system -- and I would include people working in corrections, victim/witness, legal aid and the like -- we're doing a better and better job of keeping up. It's my understanding that Ontario is not the richest province in terms of ratio, but we certainly, by reason of our size, have the largest populations, for example, of crown attorneys and judiciary. And we continue to work smarter. It would be easy to say it's resources, resources, resources, and I don't think you're suggesting that, and I'm not either. So it's a balance between looking at the issue of resources, but most importantly, working more smartly and working together in bringing all the players together to make the maximum use of the resources available to us.
It's a fluid situation. We constantly have to be re-evaluating it. We do have to look at the issue, and history tells us that over the last 10 or 15 years since Askov. We have to keep going back and looking and checking in on the issue of resources. But I would not say that we've been -- I think the system has been responsive to the appropriate identification of requests.
Mr Segal: If we can bring the parties together, Mr Kormos, early on to get over any of the issues that might be an obstacle, get the parties talking earlier, to get disclosure to defence counsel earlier, to get realistic positions being taken by experienced crown attorneys early on in the process, it may very well be that the number of cases to be tried could become more and more realistic. There will always be cases that have to be tried; that's our system, those are the protections and it's an accused's right to do that. But let's eliminate as much as possible those systemic obstacles, so that we're talking more.
Mr Segal: It's always best to have experience. I think in our system -- I'll speak only about the crown attorneys. I don't know if I want to be that presumptuous, especially with someone with your experience. In terms of sort of coming up with the correct positions, what we have learned in the crown attorney system is having some experienced people at the front end to make those decisions -- the value of a pound of butter tends to work better. Now, we of course try to urge mentoring, and it's not possible in all circumstances. But it's a truism, generally speaking, that experienced people might be able to recognize earlier and be better able to communicate a position etc. We have a wonderful cadre of young people as well.
Mr Kormos: Competent and experienced. Obviously, I'm trying to get you to say something that I can pull out of the file folder six months from now when we're fighting for more funding for legal aid, for instance, making reference to the fact that we need capable crown attorneys. We also need capable defence counsel if your proposition that you just spoke to is going to work. Is that fair?
Mr Segal: I think that the defence counsel have a great tradition of helping each other, and the more complex the matter, the more one sees that experienced defence counsel or assigned mentor, younger defence counsel etc, and this is a system that promotes competence. We want competence on all sides of the equation. But I'm not here, and you're not asking me, to criticize.
Mr Kormos: Over the course of the last decade of change, we've seen the formalization in the crown's office of charge, screening and basically a protocol and guidelines set for plea bargaining. Did you call it plea bargaining in your ministry: "plea bargaining"?
Mr Kormos: OK. First of all, has that been successful in terms of being adopted by crowns' offices across the province? Is there uniformity in application? I know there are volumes published by the ministry that are out in crown attorneys' offices. Has it been successful in terms of being universal and in terms of being applied evenly across the province?
Two, what are the goals, and have the goals been met? Are the goals set in terms of a goal of resolving, let's say, 20%, 30%, 40% of charges without trial, because you don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that's part of the process of reducing the number of trials? So what were the goals, have the goals been met and are they being met uniformly across the province?
Mr Segal: Your first question touches upon plea bargaining. Plea bargaining is an accepted part of the system as recognized by the Martin commission and subsequently by the Criminal Justice Review Committee. For some it has a certain connotation, but it's the way the system works. If it's practised responsibly, then it is a foundation piece for the system being able to account and handle the large caseload that we have been discussing.
Crown attorneys have a certain degree of independence. There are general guidelines that are administered through training sessions, summer schools and memoranda to assist them etc. But we do not have a system, as you well know, of cookie-cutter crowns and crowns' offices. What we're constantly trying to do is promote best practices and some degree of uniformity, but not an oppressing uniformity. Some degree of uniformity promotes fairness and predictability for accused persons and the defence counsel who represent them.
In terms of goals, over the years we've had a number of goals in relation to resolving our caseload in the criminal world. We've met those goals, and, for example, we try -- and I believe you know this -- less than 10% or 20% of our caseload. That doesn't sound like very much. But there are some very serious issues, accused persons who are properly invoking their constitutional rights, and they put the crown to proof. Ninety per cent of it gets resolved. The issue is resolving it in a fair and smart way without wasted appearances and the like, getting the people together and making sure that what's left has been boiled down as much as possible.
Mr Bill Mauro (Thunder Bay-Atikokan): Mr Segal, with respect, I was a little bit surprised at your response to Ms Sandals's question about human resources and that when we impact one section of the justice system, that being front-line police officers, we could anticipate an increase in criminal charges. I believe your response was something to the effect that we've been responsive, that we need to work smarter, and it's not just about human resources. Yet I'm not sure what that means. Does it mean that we have not been working smarter to this point? As the first question from Ms Broten indicated, we've seen an increase of 7,000 to 10,000 annually for the last five to six years, so I'm a little confused by your response. Does that mean we have not been working smarter to this point and we need to begin working smarter, or that we have tried putting more human resources at the problem and that has not led to a solution? I wonder if you could just clarify that for me a little bit.
Mr Segal: Sure. I'd be please to, Mr Mauro. I think one of the things I indicated, and I stand by everything I've said, is the fact that there are 13% more criminal charges in the system. That flows from police activity, not from crown activity, court services activity or judicial activity. It's just a fact.
It would be easy to just say, "OK, the police charges have gone up, therefore the answer is exclusively in our system asking for additional resources." I think ours is a system where we have tried to be responsible and tried to work smartly, and we continue to try to do that.
I think that, as acknowledged by Chief Justice Lennox in the opening-of-court statement, all the answers are not known. This is a path of trying to do better, and we try to do that in a responsible way as it relates to resources, but also with all of the partners, including the police. So I think both of these things are going on simultaneously.
Mr Mauro: The only thing I would add is that a part of this growth in cases, though, has occurred going back many years before we saw an increase in the complement of front-line services, that being the number of police officers, which led to a number of charges. So clearly there are other variables at play that were leading to the backlog besides just the fact that at some point in the last two or three years we increased the number of officers. So I think there's more to it than simply that leading to charges. I'm still trying to find -- if we go back to 1993 or 1997, when the auditor first made reference to these problems, that was before there was an increase in front-line policing. So something else is happening that hasn't been addressed.
Mr Segal: I do think you've hit upon a very good point. In terms of bringing an historical perspective to this, if one wants to look at a starting point, as I touched on in my opening remarks, you can go back to the Askov case in 1989. At that point, the system was bursting at the seams. As a result of that particular decision and the interpretation of it, we saw two things happening. We saw in an unprecedented way for the first time in any province in Canada a number of cases not going ahead on their merits, which is a very difficult thing for victims in particular. I think at that point it started us thinking about how we can start to work more smartly. I think the police, probably as a community, pay attention to that and maybe pull back a bit.
We took some steps within the ministry and started to place an emphasis at the front end of our system instead of just being reactive. Steps were taken -- it was called the investment strategy in those days in the early 1990s -- to try to put more emphasis on everyone paying attention at the front end and trying to set up some realistic goals. I think we made some headway. Then, over time, populations started to increase, the nature of crime has become more complex, trials have become more complex, police hires, and in the last couple of years, as you've touched on, the number of charges has gone up.
So you're quite right, Mr Mauro, one has to look at this over a period of time. I'd like to think we're totally transparent in terms of our explanation over that period of time, and there have been these trends that you have touched on. My point is, in the last couple of years it has again become a challenge. It's not a big point, but it's a point -- more charges in the system, and some of these other factors.
Mr Phil McNeely (Ottawa-Orléans): On page 35 of the auditor's report, in 1997-98 the number of cases disposed of was the same as in 2001-02. So in four years, the courts have not disposed, on an annual basis, of any more cases. It seems that we're always behind the new charges by a certain amount. Until your disposal rate comes ahead of your charges received rate, you're going to continually build up this problem of over eight months.
Mr Segal: I think, Mr McNeely, there have been some expansions. For example, I did refer in my opening remarks to the fact that there were 10 fresh appointments that were recently made, and then another five are expected in the very near future. That's one example of expansion that has occurred.
You've hit, on page 35, upon a very interesting point: the relationship between charges coming in and charges disposed of. Sometimes we see that as more charges come in, if it starts to go up to a significant degree, that tends to clog up the system with the possibility of more appearances, the issue that Ms Broten touched upon. In making those appearances more meaningful and compressing them, we'll look at issues such as working more smartly and some additional judicial appointments.
Mr David Zimmer (Willowdale): Mr Segal, two or three times in the course of your opening remarks you struck on this theme that there are two partners that are essentially in charge of the court system: the court services division and the judiciary. That's a very unique relationship, and I had the impression from your remarks that for the system to work with that relationship between the judiciary and the court services, the minister really has to be in sync.
I'm referring to the auditor's report, on page 30, where he raises the 1997 audit concern: "The effective administration of the courts was hampered by the lack of a clear division of authority and responsibility between the ministry and the judiciary in the management," and so on, and that negotiations were in place to develop a plan for reform. Then he notes that in the current status of that reform initiative, "The ministry was unable to achieve consensus with the judiciary, and negotiations were therefore terminated." We've heard briefly about some new steps to get that reform progress activated again. Can you elaborate on the steps that are being taken?
The second question, a follow-up question: The Attorney General spoke at the opening-of- courts ceremony sometime in January. That is, as you know, the chance for the Attorney General once a year to have a direct dialogue with the judiciary. I think it was particularly important this year because of the new government, the new Attorney General. Can you give me any sense of the thrust of the Attorney General's remarks and perhaps how they were received by the judiciary, keeping in mind we want to rebuild this relationship, or at least that's what the auditor said we should be doing?
Mr Segal: To go in reverse order, I am sure the Attorney General was looking forward to the opening of the courts, it being his first opportunity to do that. I'm sure he enjoyed the opportunity to speak with the judiciary and the public in relation to some of the things on his mind. I have no doubt that it was well received, because he, like all attorneys general, considers the judiciary to be an important part of successful administration of justice and works hard to have good relations and to promote respect in terms of public confidence.
With respect to the auditor's report, I don't think you were suggesting at all that it was a stark remark. I think what really happened here was that in 1997 there was an initiative and there were certain aspirations. It didn't quite hit the mark in terms of concluding, but out of that particular dialogue and exercise a lot of wonderful things happened.
Secondly, although it did not move toward a mature solution that might see something like a court services agency, it provided a platform for added strengthening of the relationship between the court services division and the judiciary. Some of the examples I gave in my opening remarks I will just briefly touch upon, because they are pertinent here, such as the inclusion of representatives of the judiciary at senior management tables of the court services division in terms of management, planning, budgeting, fiscal controllership and the like.
As well, the implementation of a five-year plan, which requires a lot of work by the court services division in conjunction and in working with the judiciary and leading to the establishment of a number of service standards -- which you will see in the first annual report that is on the Web site and has recently been released -- shows the kind of strength of relationship and dialogue between the judiciary and the court services division.
Those particular service standards are there to promote access to justice, efficiency, controllership, timeliness and the like. They are the sorts of goals that any excellent relationship involving court services and the judiciary would entail.
In addition, we meet regularly at senior and administrative levels to discuss issues such as how the issue of mobile blitz courts is going and what are potential issues to improve the efficacy of those mobile courts and to consider, bearing in mind the independence of the judiciary, the issue of possible emerging trends and new sites.
Although that's what occurred in 1997, the work that followed from it has been excellent. It's been significant and it's a great platform for a healthy professional relationship and continued building on it.
Mr Deputy, I think one of the problems that I'm seeing emanating out of the questioning here -- and I ask the acting Provincial Auditor to help me here -- is that the courts administration program in 1997 was spending $252 million; in 2002-03, you're spending $302 million. That's about a 20% increase in your financial resources. The charges increased by 13%. Add inflation, which has been very low for the last number of years, and you're probably pretty close to 20%. So the resources have perhaps kept up with the increase in the number of charges, plus inflation factors.
Mr Segal: First of all, I think you've correctly noted that there has been a not insignificant resource response. But like most resources within government, it's generally a response; we don't anticipate.
A couple of points I would like to stress: The first, which I dealt with at the outset of my remarks, is that the reasons for a backlog are diverse, and include issues we're trying to get a better handle on, such as the complexity of new federal legislation, and we've been dealing with that.
The second point I would make is that there have been issues, such as changes to remuneration, collective agreements, salary and wages, which again would reflect. I'm most familiar that after several years, for example, the crown attorneys received a not insignificant increase. That would be reflected. But there are increases that are given every year or every three years through collective bargaining, commissions and the like. As well, there have been some additions to the resources -- some additional judicial appointments and the commensurate staff -- that would be reflected in those sorts of figures.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean-Carleton): Congratulations to you, Deputy, on your appointment. I guess it's an exciting opportunity to come before the committee so soon after your appointment. I recall being Minister of Energy and the now-Attorney General having a lot of fun with me at the estimates committee in the same circumstance.
I quote the auditor's recommendation on page 41: "The Ministry should ensure that adequate controls are in place over expenditures so that goods and services, including consultants, are acquired competitively and in compliance with Management Board of Cabinet directives." This is obviously dealing with the past year, but could you tell me: Since October 2, what central advice has the Ministry of the Attorney General received from cabinet office, from management board or from the Ministry of Finance with respect to the use of consultants?
Mr Segal: -- and I've only been acting for the last number of weeks, so I'm not in a position to respond to that question. I can, in terms of information received and the like -- I'd need to be briefed on that. What I can tell you with respect to the issue of consultants is that it's something I take very seriously and that we take very seriously. We don't need people to remind us of the importance of following procedures that are in place. That's something that should be uppermost in my mind; it is. As I understand it, steps have been made to reduce the amount of consultancy, and that has been reduced in the last number of months. I have every confidence, from what I do know, that it's going to go down further. I take your point. That's something I will pay a lot of attention to.
Mr Baird: With the other talented, hardworking and effective officials in the Ministry of the Attorney General, would you know of any specific communication you received from the cabinet office, the Premier's office, Management Board or finance with respect to the use of consultants? That's not a subjective --
Mr Stephen Rhodes: Not that I'm aware of, aside from the normal process we go through around this time of year in terms of what used to be business planning and now is results-based planning, and being asked to look at all our expenditures extremely carefully.
It's a rare occasion. It's something the Provincial Auditor has properly noted. We've looked at it, and we've taken some steps internally. We don't need anything. The Provincial Auditor remarking on that is enough for us to take it seriously. As soon as his remarks were published or were communicated, steps were put in place, and those controls are in place. Now, I or my office may have received something. I'm just indicating that because I'm acting and new, I might not be in the best position to respond, but I would not --
Mr Baird: In fairness, you do have a number of senior officials from your ministry who obviously, looking specifically at the recommendation contained on page 41, would be able to provide that answer. It's not a value-based issue. It's not an issue based on you as a new deputy in terms of your standards. I'm just wondering, did you or did you not get any communication from cabinet office, the Premier's office, Management Board of Cabinet or finance with respect to the use of consultants?
Ms Debra Paulseth: Maybe I can help with that. I'm from court services, Mr Baird. I am not aware of any new procurement rules asking us to follow any new rules around a competitive process. We have always been expected to do that, and those rules have not changed. There are procurement rules, there are rules to follow a competitive process, and in these circumstances, as noted in the auditor's report, we had not followed them.
Mr Baird: I appreciate your answer, and I thank you. You specifically qualified it, saying "procurement" of such. Is there any expectation from cabinet office, Management Board or the Premier's office with respect to the use -- not just procurement but the use -- of consultants?
Mr Baird: So we've got the same. I thought the rules with respect to the use of consultants were acceptable when Mr Sterling was at the Ministry of the Attorney General, so I take no issue with it. I just point out that here is one issue where there has been no change with respect to the use of consultants from the former administration to the current one.
With respect to the budget process you're now undergoing, do you have a central budget in the ministry with respect to the use of consultants, or is it on a line-by-line basis depending on the requirement?
Mr Baird: With respect to the budget process, are there any expectations that have been assigned to the ministry with respect to reducing the use of consultants in the upcoming 2004-05 budget or any in-year expenditure controls?
Mr Rhodes: No specific target provided in terms of, "In this particular stream of business, you must." However, similar to previous years, the ministry will get a planning allocation and be expected to do what we can to live within that. That's no different than --
Maybe I'd better to finish off and we can come back after lunch. I do have another area and another recommendation. I'm happy to go around again. I'm in your capable hands, Mr Chair. I did get to this place on your coattails.
I would like, Mr Segal, with respect, to ask you to help me conduct what I would call an autopsy -- I say that as a physician fairly pointedly -- with regard to the integrated justice project and some of the raw numbers that have been highlighted for us.
I understand this was a program created in 1996. Total expenditures to date are something in the order of $21 million. The thing that particularly puzzles me is that it was not a project that had, for example, excellent results or even moderate or poor results, but apparently no results of any kind at all. Something like six years later it was in fact fully abandoned.
I'd like for a moment, with your indulgence, to quote, from December 2001, the then Attorney General of the province, the Honourable David Turnbull, who said, "We've already acted on many of the recommendations. The integrated justice project is transforming public safety and justice for the good of all Ontarians." It goes on: "This is a very good deal for the taxpayers of Ontario and will yield us a much better justice system, with technology that is unavailable anywhere else in the world." It goes on to say, "What we have seen out of the integrated justice program is a groundbreaking area. We're moving into new areas" and so on.
I'd like you to comment. Was it at the level of the police, the crown attorneys, the courts, the corrections services, the Attorney General's office itself, and was it a failure of vision, mismanagement? Is there anything residual to show for it? Did we just run out of computing power? Also, with respect to your comments to Mr Kormos when you said you would not wish to be presumptuous in your replies to a person of his experience, I'm sure you'll maintain the same courtesy to me and extend to me an answer requisite with my experience also.
The Chair: Just before we begin, we were trying to keep different things -- you've jumped ahead. We were trying to do the court backlog and then get to the information part later. Are there other people who have questions about the court backlog who want to talk about that? I am at the committee's disposal.
In any event, there are just some remarks I would like to make about that particular project. As you may be aware, it came to an end when the work term under the common purpose procurement arrangement with the private sector consortium expired in October 2002. Responsibility for the project's initiatives was transferred from the partnership to government.
A brief chronology, which hopefully responds to some of the issues you've raised: In April 2001, negotiations with the EDS consortium led the consortium to attempt to amend the common purpose procurement arrangement; that took place over a 20-month period. In September, the final set of negotiations ended. In October, the five-year term under the CPP arrangement expired. Then full transition of the integrated justice project applications from that arrangement to ministries was successfully completed as of November 30, 2002, without issue. In December 2002, EDS filed a notice of action in the courts. As a consequence, I can tell you that the ministries and EDS are in ongoing discussions regarding the former integrated justice project, but I do not feel it would be appropriate, in view of the fact that it's before the courts, for me to comment further.
Having said that, I would say that the ministry has taken the issue of integrated technology extremely seriously. As I alluded to, we are in the process of implementing the Frank system, which is a new case tracking system for civil, small claims, family and superior court criminal cases to look at case flow, to look at caseloads and to provide more accurate information about court proceedings, including wait time for trials and other hearings. We're also making significant improvements to criminal case tracking on the ICON system. We want to have improvements to the quality and scope of information about criminal cases in the Ontario Court of Justice, including wait times for trials and other events.
We are continuing to evaluate e-filing in Toronto's Small Claims Court. As I touched on before, among other initiatives we are continuing to work with the stakeholders on an electronic courtroom which has been established in Toronto to test multi-media presentations, evidence, remote appearances and digital audio recording.
Mr Qaadri: One quick supplementary: Is it possible for you, in your capacity, to assure the committee, and through us the people of Ontario, that, for example, some of the new technologies you allude to are not just simply a resurrection, a reincarnation of the IJP?
Mr Segal: What I've indicated, Dr Qaadri, is some of the important initiatives that we are working on. I'm not in a position to talk about attribution, in view of the matters as I've described them, but I can tell you that the ministry, and in particular the court services division, works really hard on these initiatives, to name a few, because these are all significant ways to get to our journey, to have better information, to do better on issues such as backlog, which we spent all the time on this morning because of its importance to the citizens of Ontario.
Mrs Sandals: If I can actually follow up on two items that were raised this morning, the backlog and some of the material that Mr Baird raised, Mr McNeely drew to our attention the chart that's on page 35 of the auditor's report. The auditor certainly raised the issue in 1997 of the court backlog, and there seems to be a lot of evidence that the chief justices were also concerned about the court backlog. Yet when you look at the chart that was supplied to us on page 35, we see that the number of cases that were disposed of actually fell. It goes down from 1997 to 1998, it goes down again in 1999 and it sort of levels off in 2000. So the number of cases that are being disposed of seems to actually have fallen by something on the order of 40,000 or 50,000 cases per year, which seems quite strange, given that the auditor and the justices are all raising as an issue the fact that the backlog is a serious issue. So I wonder if you could explain how it is that the number of cases that were disposed of actually seemed to fall during that period.
Mr Segal: The number of charges in the last two or three years has gone up by 13%. It's gone up by 50% in Brampton; it's gone up by about 20% on average in most GTA jurisdictions. Those particular kinds of cases are very difficult cases and, as well, I've alluded to the fact that we are faced with certain other challenges. In this most recent period we've had a new Youth Criminal Justice Act, as one example. Practitioners will say that it is very much more complex than its predecessor. That is a federal initiative that we have to implement and grapple with.
I would say that since 1997 we have been very active as a ministry. For example, we have worked with the judiciary to implement blitz and mobile courts. That is since 1997. We have worked on a protocol for case management improvements. That's since 1997. We have instituted a bail best-practices protocol; again, since 1997. We have involved ourselves with the judiciary as a result of additional resources, with a coordinated case management initiative involving 15 additional judicial resources and commensurate resources to the rest of the system and, as I indicated before, 10 of those new judicial appointments have been made and many of the support hires have been made, all the while working on re-engineering. That is what we are grappling with and have done since 1997. But I will say in conclusion that in the last two or three years, in significant and busy parts of the province, the increase in charges coming in has been quite marked.
Mr Kormos: You've indicated that it's been a difficult process because there are all sorts of factors that aren't within the direct control of the province of Ontario. You've got federal legislation, like the new young offenders' act, and you've got changes in the size of communities like Brampton, a huge growth community. The chair has noted a 20% net increase in investment, yet no significant reduction in these Askov -- the other guy was Melo. Was it Askov and Melo?
We really take this extremely seriously. From the prosecution and victim support points of view, it's not good to have a case that isn't heard on the merits. It's very difficult to explain that to a victim, and we work very hard to try to do that.
In addition to some of the steps that I just indicated to Mrs Sandals -- I mentioned four or five steps since 1997 that we're taking -- there's some additional methodology that we use. Some of it is very simple. For example, when we go into a particular jurisdiction to deal with a blitz or mobile court for the next three or six months, thereby creating a little additional capacity, one of the things we try to do is look at the cases at that moment in time and try to draw forward the most serious cases that seem to be out there the longest and offer earlier trial dates for those -- to do some triage. It's a constant challenge, Mr Kormos, as I'm sure you know.
We do continue to try to work smarter. One of the additional things we've done in the last year or so, and that we're going to move forward with, are these summits, getting all of the players in the same room to discuss matters of mutual interest to see how we could work better together, so that the collective, respecting the independence and the constitutional perspectives we bring, can all work together so we move the system along as best we can.
Some degree of backlog, as I tried to indicate in my definitional attempt earlier, is always going to be there. You can't have a system -- at least in Canada -- where you'd have a case that would be ready for trial the next day. But at some point it becomes too long, and that's what we're trying to cut down. The Supreme Court of Canada has said, "Do it within a reasonable amount of time." We're trying to make sure we stay within those boundaries. We have all of these initiatives underway, including a summit in the spring to help roll out some of these best-practices protocols or ensure as well that their release has the support of the broader justice community and they get off to renewed or new kick-starts, with support from the judiciary, the defence bar, the crown and so forth.
Mr Kormos: Fair enough, but back on November 27, in response to a hard-hitting question in the House, Mr Bryant talked about having appointed 10 new justices to the Ontario Court of Justice: "This is just part of our government's commitment...." In another response shortly after he had been made Attorney General -- this on December 3 -- he talks again about the 10 new justices appointed: "We have another 10 appointments that will be made." I trust one of those was the controversial one that was reported in the Globe and Mail on Saturday; I'm not sure. "We will be hiring 50 additional crown prosecutors." So is appointing more judges and hiring more crown prosecutors part of the plan? If it is, what is the goal? Where are we headed? And obviously you need courtrooms for these people to work in.
I think in Ontario we have one of the finest processes for appointing judiciary in an independent fashion. Lots of jurisdictions look to Ontario in respect of that system, which is merit-based and independent and transparent.
You're right: The issue of courtrooms is an important one, because if you decided to make a move and increase capacity even for a short time, you'd have to have the ability to house that additional complement, whether short-term or long-term.
I think the ministry has become a lot better at looking at the challenges. In terms of physical space, we do have probably one of the largest challenges in government as we deliver courtrooms in 250 different sites. We're trying to get better at figuring out how we approach our obligations, so we're trying to move ahead and look at that appropriately. There are techniques that we can use by moving cases, with the agreement of the judiciary, from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction or one courthouse to another courthouse that's close by -- Welland to St Catharines, those kinds of examples -- if we note that it's a little bit more quiet in one jurisdiction. We're trying to get the maximum efficiencies there under the auspices of the judiciary and not adding capacity unless we know that we're in a position, as best as possible, to accommodate that additional capacity and move forward in a thoughtful way in relation to that.
Where are we trying to get to? We're trying to get to a situation where, in as many places as possible, delay is reasonable; where the number of cases that are stayed for unreasonable delay are the absolute lowest possible; where we don't have to be put in the position, whether it be through the crown or a victim/witness, to indicate that a case can't be heard on its merits.
So, yes, it is challenging. Working with all of the stakeholders, we are making progress. We're constantly trying to improve, and I'm confident that we will continue on that path to try to get those cases, as much as possible, within that reasonable zone.
Mr Kormos: I think everybody in this room supports you in your observation about the Scott reforms to the appointment process as being positive and effective. However, none other than Chief Justice Lennox, both in 2003 and again in 2004, in his statements to the opening of the courts, commented on concerns around appointments of justices of the peace. In 2003 he expressed concerns about the nature of the qualifications and standards and, I put to you, implicitly around issues of supervision and training for justices of the peace. He referred to them again in 2004 and talked about former Attorney General Young as having been interested in conducting a reform but being distracted -- my words, not his -- and then talked about the new Attorney General's new commitment to reform those things. What's the status of that? Was it in 2002, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police -- that now-notorious anecdotal report on justices of the peace?
Mr Kormos: It's in the ministry. Anyway, what's happening with reform around the appointments process, because some have accused that process of being the last bastion of overt patronage to the bench.
Mr Segal: I'm glad that you agree that the process for the Court of Justice is the way you describe it. There are issues with respect to improvements in the justice of the peace process that the ministry is looking at. You've canvassed a variety of issues. I will be working with the ministry to get briefed and look at those issues. Questions of training are things that we take very seriously. I know that we're constantly looking, with the judiciary, to improve opportunities for training. I'm aware of some of the issues that you have raised, and those are some of the matters that I will be paying some attention to as I get briefed with respect to justices of the peace, their appointment, their training and allocation.
Mr Kormos: Is there a time frame on that? When can we expect to see something? How is the ministry going to go about doing that? How are they going to develop a new appointments process, develop a new standards and qualifications schedule, if you will? How are they going to approach this? Is it going to be purely internal? Is there going to be a public process? When can we start hearing about this? What's happening to JP appointments in the interim?
Mr Segal: In general terms, as I indicated before, it's something that I have to get briefed on. I would like to familiarize myself with the issues. For example, you've raised several issues. I'd like to think about those. I think you treat them seriously, and I'd like to brief myself on them, and, at some point, I need to brief the minister. Then I may be in a position, or the ministry may be in a position, to provide some answers.
Ms Broten: I guess if we're almost getting to the end of talking about the backlog, I think all of us in this room are hopeful that one day we won't have to talk about a backlog in our province. We've heard that a lot of protocols have been put in place since 1997, but at the same time we've seen a 65% increase in the number of cases languishing over eight months.
I guess it raises, for me, the need for us to look at the effectiveness of the measures that we're putting in place. For example, you talk about more mediation. How are we going to measure the effectiveness of those measures as we move forward? When you talk about diversion programs, against what benchmarks are we going to measure the effectiveness of the programs, so that one day we can come back and see that the programs that we've put in place are effective in reducing the backlog and, at the same time, having a quality court system? Reducing a backlog by getting rid of cases by pleading to lesser charges is not a satisfactory result for complainants and victims.
The measurability and the effectiveness is something that we need to see happen in years to come, because we want to come back and really look at what we have done to make this system concretely better, recognizing that there are lots of things that we don't control, but taking a good, hard look at the things that we do in making sure that the measures that we've put in place are working or we've disbanded them.
Ms Paulseth: I think you've raised in this question an area that the auditor has also pointed out to us we're not quite up to snuff on, and that is relating to the gathering of information, getting our IT systems in place, reporting in a more transparent way.
If I could just follow up on what the deputy mentioned previously, we're trying to get better in measuring what we do, starting in an incremental way to improve our data collection in the ICON system, for example, particularly with respect to criminal courts, so that we can create accurate baseline measures.
A second concrete example is the one that the deputy mentioned regarding a new report that we're going to put into place on April 1 this year -- we're hopeful it will come in then -- where we have worked with the judiciary to set up maybe 10 examples of reasons for adjournment, which is of course one of many significant issues in getting cases to the trial door so they could be heard on their merits, working out meaningful appearances.
What we've done is agree on 10 definitions. We have agreements that on April 1 we will start recording exactly what is the reason for adjournment, so that once those reports start coming in, we'll be able to identify those appearances that perhaps aren't as meaningful as they should be.
These sorts of measures will take us down the path of being able to understand better what is going on, to work with the judiciary, the institutional users, and set targets that are realistic. Those are a couple of the concrete things we're trying to do.
Ms Broten: Maybe I can just follow up on that, though. I guess I would like to see it go one step further, as someone who has filled in the forms about what the adjournments are about. It's not that helpful if we don't do something with that information. It's not that helpful to say, "Check, everybody has to go to mandatory mediation," if it's not a useful venture for the parties to be at and it's just another waste of court resources because nobody wants to mediate at that time, for example. So we have to do some critical analysis of the systems as they are and make some determinations of whether we're using resources well and whether we can do better. I just wonder what, if any, plans are in place in that regard to make sure that the information is used and we really examine the effectiveness of what we've implemented.
Ms Paulseth: I think some of the mechanisms we have in place -- and of course, we can always be searching for better mechanisms -- are to actually first of all track the information accurately, make it available to everyone in a transparent way and, third, sit down with the people who are part of that process. So for example, we now have several subcommittees working out of our backlog summit, and in the subcommittees we bring to the table, "In the best practices for bail courts, here are the data, here is where we're going wrong, here is where we seem to be having a backlog," and having the parties work together on meaningful analysis -- is more information needed; what's going on there -- and come up with a best practice that then gets communicated and trained across the province. But you're absolutely right: We have to look for more and more opportunities to be doing that.
Mr Baird: If you have no objection, I would move that the Ministry of the Attorney General provide the committee with a copy of any and all directives pertaining to the use of consultants received from a central agency since October 2003 and that the clerk distribute to committee members. And, in the event that no such documentation exists, that confirmation of the same be made in writing.
Mr Zimmer: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I don't think that's an appropriate thing to put to the deputy here. It may well involve cabinet communications and so on. There are other avenues for you to ask that question. In my view, it's not appropriate to ask that type of question of a deputy at this type of hearing.
Mr Baird: He has said he has no objection to providing us with such information. My concern is that there's a recommendation from the Provincial Auditor with respect to the use of consultants. I'm familiar with the directives that were in place until October 2003. I want to know, as a member of Parliament, what directives have changed since then. Do you have any objection to that?
Mr Baird: Do you have any problem, though, with that? You don't think that as members of Parliament we should know what the directives are with respect to the use of consultants in the public service?
The Chair: The motion is in order. Anybody has the right to raise a motion and put a motion in front of the committee, and we can have a vote on it. But it's often the practice of this particular committee to ask the deputy to provide that, the deputy undertakes to provide it and it's done.
Mr Segal: Mr Chair, when Mr Baird asked me, he asked me to look, and then his motion asked me to produce. As I'm sure you appreciate, they are two different things. I said that I had no objection to looking. But, as has been pointed out, there may be some issues around the production of them, and I'd just like to indicate that.
I understand the issue of providing some additional statistics etc, for example, on backlog. This is a little different. I will agree to look, but there may be an issue in terms of production. I'm not aware of where this may go, but I wanted to raise that distinction.
Mr Baird: Just to address it, if there's a policy or practice or directive that would be issued by a central agency, I can't think of a possible reason that you wouldn't want a member of provincial Parliament to know. I'm following up. One of my responsibilities is to take the advice and the counsel contained in the Provincial Auditor's report and recommendations and do some due diligence to ensure that it's being followed up.
I'm very familiar with the protocol with respect to the use of consultants up until 2003. I'm not even telling you that I think the Provincial Auditor is right in his pointed suggestions and recommendations to the ministry. I'm not even telling you I accept it. Frankly, I've seen nothing that you've done a bad job in that area. I just want to know, as a member of provincial Parliament, what the rules are with respect to the use of consultants.
I would think that, as a member of provincial Parliament, you would, in the course of the new era of openness, which is used in many government communiqués to the press, be excited about the idea. I'm trying to think of what --
Mr Kormos: Mr Chair, I don't intend to belabour the court backlog issue. I think we've heard everything that Mr Segal is going to tell us with respect to that. I'm in no way being critical. However, having said that, is it the committee's contemplation to have the Attorney General appear before it with respect to any or all of these matters?
Mrs Sandals: In the conversation we were having before lunch, I think there was agreement that Management Board has in place directives around how consultants and capital expenditures and various things -- what the procurement rules are. I notice that in the capital project reports, the auditor has pointed out projects in which we're looking at initial contemplation that projects are going to be in the tens of thousands of dollars, and then they seem to have ballooned into the tens of millions of dollars, and there doesn't seem to be any competitive tendering process taking place.
I understand that the Management Board directive would have been at that time, and continues to be, that major projects should be competitively tendered. I wondered if you could explain why, in these cases the auditor has cited, the Management Board procedures requiring competitive tenders were in fact not followed, because the deputy made it very clear this morning that he believes quite passionately in following the rules. I wonder if we could have some explanation of why the Management Board requirements for competitive tenders appear not to have been followed in these cases.
Mr Segal: Without commenting on a particular case, you have noted my interest, which doesn't surprise you, in following those guidelines, and a commitment to try to follow them in future and, actually, to try to get ahead of the issue, because the maintenance of court structures in capital projects is a very difficult issue. There are a lot of properties in the portfolio. We work with the Ontario Realty Corp, our mandatory service provider in this respect.
But just in a general way, I would say that sometimes what we're confronted with is a situation that arises out of what I would describe as an emergency, a health emergency; for example, finding mould that could be dangerous to the occupants of the building, users of the building, members of the public. In those circumstances, because of the important issue that was addressed this morning, the issue of backlog, we're often trying to do the best we can to discover the facts in an appropriate way, follow Management Board guidelines, but at the same time we're extremely concerned that the operations of a busy courthouse, such as in Newmarket, do not collapse but are dealt with in an orderly manner and that steps are taken to ensure that the cases don't add to backlog any further and that more cases aren't put at risk and the like. It's a difficult and challenging situation where, in an unexpected fashion, we're faced with what could be described as a health pressure.
Mrs Sandals: I understand, if you're going from a quarter of a million to half a million or something, that those are things that are being done fairly quickly. My experience with building projects is that when you start talking millions or tens of millions those are substantive projects and it takes quite a long time to go out and get the proper tenders. Would it have made a difference of a month or more to something that it appears was going on over a period of years, to follow the proper procedures and make sure the government and the taxpayer got the best price available? How did the decision-making occur in this case, that there wasn't a decision to go to a tendering process but instead a decision to skip the tendering process?
Mr Segal: As I indicated, Mrs Sandals, it's not something that one starts off doing. There will be situations in the future where we may be faced with a health issue -- the users of the building come as the various public service branches and legislation kicks in, including health reports, health and safety issues -- where we have to act extremely quickly, always with the immense responsibility and pressure of ensuring that everyone who uses that building is safe and none of the cases get stayed because of unreasonable delay.
When I said this morning that the issue of the calculation of unreasonable delay is visited on the crown, I didn't mean the crown prosecutor, as I'm sure you know; I meant anything in relation to facilities, judicial complement, crown action, police action. It could be as well at the former Ministry of the Solicitor General -- it's all visited on the crown.
We're very committed to ensuring that, on the one hand, those procedures are complied with but, on the other hand, sometimes we're forced to move forward, through circumstances that no one wanted, to move expeditiously, to guard the health and safety of the thousands of users and members of the public who go into courthouses every day, and as well be concerned with the backlog issue and losing cases.
Mrs Sandals: If I may, then, given those pressures, how would you be moving forward in the future to ensure that, even where there are health and safety issues, when we're getting into these mega-projects we do appropriate tendering?
Mr Segal: The procedures are there. As I've touched on this morning, what we are trying to move toward is to have, with our partners and the ORC, a good sense of what our capital needs are, to be on top of this complex issue throughout the province, to be reacting less, to being more proactive.
As well, I think we have been forced to improve our responses in relation to contingencies that arise, whether they be power or SARS or work stoppages or health and safety in relation to a particular building. We're constantly trying to refine those so we don't overreact or react in a way that would add more cost.
Mr Mauro: OK. Mr Segal, you made a comment in response to Mrs Sandals questions about "In the future we hope to." To me it sounds like in the past you've been unable to meet some of those guidelines. Please explain that, because that was my interpretation. It was my understanding from your response that "in the past we have not been able to adhere to tendering policies and guidelines as just described because," and the reason I'm hearing is that all of these capital projects, or at least most of them, were acute insofar as they were health related and we need to move on them immediately.
Mr Rhodes: There is one project listed in the Provincial Auditor's report for which we completely agree with the auditor's assessment, which is related to Milton. It was a particular project where funding was provided to a contractor and the services were not received from the contractor. We then immediately went back to the contractor, had the funds refunded, and the auditor was absolutely correct in their assessment. We've done additional things within the ministry to ensure that there are tighter controls and some additional training of staff.
Mr Mauro: All right. If they are health related and if, for example, there's been mould in a building for five years or 10 years, you're suggesting to me that we don't have a month to put a tender together for a $20-million or $40-million contract because there happens to be mould in the building? You tried to make the connection, Mr Segal, to the backlog, the backup in cases that existed as the justification, it seemed to me, for moving forward in as expeditious a manner as possible with the work on these projects. We could have set up an alternate court some place or rented a vacant building, created a temporary courthouse, publicly tendered a contract that might be $10 million or $40 million in value of public money instead of sole-sourcing a contract to who knows whom.
So I'm very uncomfortable with this, probably more uncomfortable with this than I am with the backlog in the cases, where we are using public money and just deciding who we're going to give it to, with no public tendering process. Quite frankly, I'd like to hear a bit of a better justification for that happening the way it has.
Mr Segal: A bit better justification, Mr Mauro, is not "There is mould and there is mould," but there is mould and there is mould, and some of that mould, as I understand it, can be extremely dangerous or of concern, as opposed to lesser types of mould. I'm not looking for any sympathy, but it's a very difficult issue when there is a health report that comes down without any anticipation. It's hard to find out what goes on sometimes in some of these superstructures. No one expects it. But if a health issue is raised -- take Newmarket as an example -- and you're trying to figure out what to do with tens of thousands of cases the next day, and hundreds of court staff and thousands of users who are going to that address, it's a bit of a pressure cooker.
Mr Mauro: Mr Segal, you can't deal with them the next day anyway ,because you're dealing with the mould issue. You're going to be doing something with that courthouse anyway, so my question is, why don't we do something to accommodate those court cases -- an empty building or whatever -- because you still need to deal with the mould issue, and while you're accommodating those court cases someplace else, we have a public tender to deal with the mould issue. I'm not sounding insensitive to the seriousness of mould and the potential long-term health benefits it may have on people working in that environment. What I'm asking is why we did not find some other reason or way to find out and go forward with getting a fair public tender for work of that large a dollar value. It seems to me that there were other options available to us.
Mr Segal: I think you raise a good point. Just to be clear, we did do all of those things that you suggested, so that might underscore your point. We did get a temporary courthouse set up. It was at some cost. While we were trying to grapple day by day, week by week, with emerging news on the health and safety front, we did try to keep the cost down as much as possible with respect to the temporary solution to keep the business of justice going. Can we do a better job? Absolutely.
Mr Rhodes: In the Newmarket circumstance the reality was that the scope of the issue changed virtually every day. Initially the thoughts were that it was relatively localized and could be dealt with with staff in the building. Then the next day you'd get a new technical report that would indicate something more broadly. The next day it would be HVAC systems and many other things requiring replacement or significant modification. So it changed and it was quite fluid.
In the 2201 Finch context, I should mention that it had similar traits. Initially the thought was that staff could temporarily be relocated out of the East Mall and then be relocated back after the building was cleaned. It was determined that that was probably not feasible and in fact it may have been more prudent to do the things the way we did.
But the additional thing that was done in 2201 to try to mitigate the very real concerns expressed by the Provincial Auditor and yourself was that behind the scenes we did bring in cost consultants and quantity surveyors to ensure that, even though the system was changing and requirements were changing daily, someone was watching, in addition to us and the mandatory service provider, ORC, to ensure that we were getting value for money as best we could. It is not a replacement for a public tender and I'm not trying to argue it is, but that was the reality.
Mr Mauro: That's a very difficult thing to listen to and swallow, and the justification is that it's fluid and morphing on a day-to-day basis. That's a travesty. That's a terrible thing that's happened. It's an abuse of public funds, and I have some serious issues with it. Quite frankly, I'm not sure the explanations justify that kind of action.
Mr Mauro: The last question, then, around that issue: Is it necessary, when you circumvent the tendering guidelines, that you would receive direction from whom? Would it be Management Board of Cabinet? When you go to a dollar value that high, who gives you the OK to do that?
Mr McMahon: One thing on that point from the crown's perspective is that although they were able to move out, one of the pressures facilities had was the judiciary -- because we were in a trailer park, basically in the parking lot, and winter was coming. Every day we were up against, if we didn't get this thing done, the judiciary was going to shut down the temporary courthouse. If they shut down the temporary courthouse, we're done, from the point of view of administration of justice, if we don't have a courthouse. The amount of pressure being exerted by the independent judiciary to shut the temporary courthouse because it was of such poor quality -- and that's no reflection on the people doing it -- added to the pressure to get it done. Not that it justifies the end result, but it's another reason that they couldn't afford to allow that temporary courthouse to close.
Mr McMahon: The only problem with that would be that when they decide finally that this courthouse is uninhabitable on a Tuesday we have to be up and running with a courthouse on Monday, or we're done. You're right; the best was a trailer park at that time on short notice.
Mr Qaadri: Yes. It seems to me that this whole issue of spending on capital projects is really one of fiscal responsibility and the stewardship of the province's resources. Without injecting an unnecessary level of drama, it seems a bit of a betrayal of Ontario's trust. The spending on capital projects approaches something on the order of $300 million. Whatever the exigencies are, whether a mould alert has been sounded or a shutdown amber alert from the judiciary, when we're engaging in projects which no doubt will continue in other courthouses in which some infraction of the law or some bylaw or health hazard is detected, the whole initiatives of renovation and modernization and refurbishing are likely going to continue.
Just to highlight some of what my colleagues have said, I think what we're having a little trouble digesting, in terms of the stewardship of the previous administration, is how non-tendered, sort of publicly sheltered contracts blossom forth; for example, in Newmarket, from $250,000 to eventually $23 million, and, with regard to that interim location at Finch, from less than $100,000 to $8 million. Are you telling us that the contracts were awarded, yes, with the due haste of the mould alert being sounded, but to their nearest and dearest or the opaque and not transparent methods, or is it, for example, the consultants of which Mr Baird seems to be so fond?
Mr Segal: Dr Qaadri, what I said was that the Provincial Auditor has remarked on a couple of instances and had some significant discussion in his report regarding them, that we at the ministry take that seriously, that we want to get ahead of this, that we want to do better. We have a plan in place to get a handle on our entire portfolio, to try to stay ahead of particular circumstances, to try to learn some lessons from some of the contingencies we've been through and do a better job. That's what I commit to do.
Mr Qaadri: One quick follow-up. As you know, we've inherited a reasonable fiscal crisis that we have to deal with across the government in different areas; for example, the spending on capital projects, as I mentioned, is approaching something like $300 million. My question is, what reassurances can you give to us that the stewardship of the past will not be continued? It seems to me that not only was the public tendering process skipped, but for a major authorization of this nature it was executed without ministerial approval, without the approval of cabinet and without the approval of Management Board of Cabinet. What assurances do we have that this process will be improved in the future?
Mr Segal: Dr Qaadri, I have indicated that it's important that we move forward, that we attempt to get a handle on this portfolio. The $300 million you've talked about is a lot of money. You're quite right that it's important to make sure that processes are followed, and certainly my intention is to be briefed on means to get a better handle on a go-forward basis to ensure that there is compliance, and that's what I'm committed to do.
Mr McNeely: Yes, I do. It seems to me that one of the important parts here is page 42. The project was carried out without a fixed-price contract and without a proper competitive acquisition, without obtaining ministerial or Management Board of Cabinet approval. That seems to me just not following the rules. It relates as well to what John Baird brought up earlier: Have you been directed to follow the rules? I don't think it's necessary, maybe even in this case, where we're only talking $8 million -- from $23 million to $30 million is not so important after the billions on Pickering. But the rules are there. I don't think this new government has to tell you to follow them. We would expect you to, wouldn't we?
Mr Segal: I've tried to indicate this morning that you're quite right, sir, that I don't have to be told. That's my responsibility. I intend to do the very best I can. The points are well taken on all sides, and we're going to move forward and try to do a better job.
Mr Segal: I'm not sure I can give you the figures. I'll look around in a second to see if I can get some specific assistance on that, but a great deal of it. But as touched on by Mr Rhodes, there were also issues regarding the quality of the air that emerged during this. So there were a number of health-related issues with what turned out to be significant work requirements to make sure that the courthouse was in a position to be inhabited again and to ensure that everyone using it would feel confident about their health.
Mr Baird: I move that the Ministry of the Attorney provide the committee with a copy of any and all directives pertaining to the use of consultants received from a central agency since October 2003 and that the clerk distribute to committee members. And, in the event that no such document exists, that confirmation of the same be made in writing.
I feel very strongly about this. The Provincial Auditor has come forward with a recommendation. I am a member of the Legislature; I want to do my due diligence to know what controls are in place for the use of consultants. This has been an issue certainly in my time in the Legislature, as my esteemed colleague from Niagara Centre will know: the use of consultants and what sorts of guidelines are in place. I feel I can't do my due diligence if there's nothing formal that's been followed since October 2003, because I'm well aware of the rules and practices that were in place.
Too often, requests are made at committee -- not this committee; I've not been a member of this committee in the past -- and you just never hear anything back. I'd like to have some formality to it. I want the tools to do my job and to do my due diligence. I can't for the life of me understand what would be the objection. If there's a process or a policy that you have to have 60,000 people follow in the use of consultants, why wouldn't that be public information? I just can't conceive of why it would be secret.
This new deputy is a smart actor. He's someone with a great deal of experience in government. He's conducted himself very well before the committee, but there is the use of qualifiers, which does cause me concern. He has a responsibility to the secretary of cabinet, to the Premier, to his minister. Obviously, our responsibility isn't to the Premier, it isn't to the secretary of cabinet, it isn't to the Attorney General. It's to the people we collectively serve.
Virtually every document coming out of this government talks about a new era of openness. If the door to that new era slams shut in the office of the Attorney General, I think it's a sorry state. I just want to know what rules, what controls and what directives are in place for the use of consultants so that I am aware of them.
This committee is here as a government oversight committee. We're not here to rubber-stamp the executive branch. We are the legislative branch of government. It's so important that we have an opposition member mandated in the standing orders. Much has been written on the issue of a committee's, and particularly a minority's, access to information.
I just can't conceive that there's even a thought that this information couldn't be public. I want this information in order that I can follow up the serious recommendation brought forward by the Provincial Auditor. There may be absolutely nothing to learn, and there may be something quite substantial.
I do note that my esteemed colleague the chief government whip has come into the committee room and had chats with a number of his committee members. I assume that he's not giving any directive, that this is a government oversight committee and these committee members would be free to let the sun shine and the light come in to government. I look forward to support from all members of the committee so that we can follow up the auditor's report.
First, the credentials of Mr Baird as the mover of this motion: As we know, he was intimate with Andersen Consulting, among others, that took the taxpayers of this province for millions upon millions of dollars. I therefore tell you that we should pay close attention to Mr Baird when he rings alarm bells and raises red flags about the utilization of high-priced consultants who end up picking the pockets of taxpayers in Ontario and delivering so little. It's sort of like the prisoner who has truly been rehabilitated, who takes that prison experience and the conversion he's undergone to lead others down the straight and narrow. So I commend you, Mr Baird, for moving this motion.
Second, the relevance of it: We're dealing with the auditor's report. The auditor specifically addressed controls over expenditures, including consultants. It is, I put to you, highly relevant, especially in the context of what you heard the acting auditor say earlier today, and that was that the auditor's office from time to time had more than a little bit of difficulty getting the information they were seeking. Did I misstate you at all in that regard, sir?
Mr Kormos: All right. So here we've got an auditor who's frustrated because his office is having difficulty getting information; an auditor who specifically raises concerns that even government members have expressed about the manner in which public monies have been expended, among other things, with respect to consultants. Not all of you were here during the fiascos around Andersen Consulting and its titular successors, but let me tell you, they were fiascos. Ms Martel and, from time to time, I came into this committee and we were just horror-struck at what consultants can do.
Thirdly, some members of the government -- I'm glad the government's with us here, because I intend to call for a recorded vote on this motion. I'm glad all of its members are here. Why don't you note that members of the fourth and fifth estates are here as well? As Mr Justice Osborne had occasion to say a couple of weeks ago, the real test, the real standard, when you're deciding whether or not to do something, is whether you want it appearing on the front page of tomorrow's paper. There's going to be a recorded vote here.
We talked about the relevance; we've talked about the credentials of the mover. Let's talk about whether it's appropriate, because some members of the government howled in protest at the proposition that this committee should call for papers.
I took a look at the text The Power of Parliamentary Houses to Send for Persons, Papers and Records: A Sourcebook on the Law and Precedent of Parliamentary Subpoena Powers for Canadian and Other Houses, by one Derek Lee, LLB, MP. He writes: "A committee has power to summon witnesses or require documents to be presented only when expressly authorized by the House."
So I took a look at the standing orders, and sure enough the House has authorized this committee to call for the attendance of persons or the presentation of papers. Standing order 108(b) reads, "Except when the House otherwise orders," and it hasn't, "each committee," including this committee, "shall have power to send for persons, papers and things."
I suggest to you that we've got a duty to support this motion. It's our responsibility. We've got the power; it's relevant; it would be, oh, so enlightening. This committee has the responsibility of preparing a report, which will be read by premiers, ministers, deputy ministers and ADMs, and by the general public to the extent that the press reports it. I put to you that we've got a responsibility to support this motion. We've certainly got the power; the standing orders say so. We've certainly got the issue of relevance resolved, because it's specifically within the concerns expressed by the Provincial Auditor. And we've got the authority of Mr Baird, a veteran of sleeping with consultants. As you know, when you sleep with consultants, at the very least you can get fleas.
Ms Broten: I've listened carefully to what Mr Kormos had to say, and I guess I'd say that I do want this on the front page of the paper tomorrow, because we on this side of the table have been talking about the need to curb the rampant abuse of the use of high-priced political consultants well before Mr Baird started talking about this issue and had a new-found commitment to ensuring that taxpayers' dollars are spent wisely. That commitment was something we talked about in advance of the election campaign and that we moved quickly on, once we formed the government. The one individual we did hire to examine the books of this province unfortunately indicated to us --
Ms Broten: A well-respected former auditor indicated to us what a mess this province was in. Frankly, since October 2, we've been picking up the pieces and digging through the many issues that have been found across various ministries.
Ms Broten: Let's talk about what this government has done. I'll pass this out. It's a memo from the Management Board of Cabinet on November 28, 2003, which came out as a result of Erik Peters's indication that we inherited a $5.6-billion deficit from the previous government. As a result, we quickly implemented a number of strategies, number 5 of which was reviewing the current use of consultants. In this memorandum -- the Chair of Management Board of Cabinet sent it to all ministers -- was that they make "a commitment to find savings by reducing the use of highly paid consultants" and that they consider the government's commitment to do this in their ministry's business plans.
Ms Broten: Openness of the government is something we've been moving forward. We're not hiding the deficit; we're giving the province and the taxpayers the straight goods, and we're curbing expenditures in government to make sure we don't waste their money. It's across all boards. It's not particular to this ministry. Maybe the new deputy is not aware of a document that came out before he was here. But frankly, we moved quickly on it. I want to see it on the front page of the paper, and I'm glad you raised the issue today, because it's something that we're concerned about. In fact, we've been picking up the pieces since October 2. We're pleased to provide this to you. Again, on the new era of openness, you only need ask to get the information you're looking for.
Mr Qaadri: I'd like, first of all, to second the comments that were made by Ms Broten and just highlight some of the financial specifics. According to our calculations, over the previous four years, that administration spent something on the order of $600 million of Ontario taxpayers' money on consultants in various forms. We campaigned on this particular issue and, as Ms Broten has quite rightly pointed out, this was one of the very first initiatives this government brought forth in order to restore a sense of fiscal responsibility and responsible stewardship of the resources of Ontario.
Mr Kormos: I read this little two-pager, and I don't know: It's saying, "I ask that you also consider the commitment," with respect to the reduction of the use of highly paid consultants in your review of ministries' business plan proposals. I don't know whether "consider the commitment" -- saying, "Please think about it" -- constitutes much of a direction. I don't know; I'm just sort of thinking out loud.
Mr Baird: I am concerned about this issue. I did come into Community and Social Services and renegotiate the deal with Andersen and the project was successfully delivered on time and on budget. The officials at the Management Board of Cabinet will all confirm that.
Mr Baird: Hand-picked by the political actors. I happen to think the individual is a very credible person. When he was awarded with distinction from the Institute of Chartered Accountants, a quote from me appeared on the program of the ceremony, because I think so highly of the man.
I've looked at this document, and this is the typical letter you get from Management Board saying, "Please don't spend any money," and the part I like best, "Please don't come to Management Board to ask for any more money to be spent." Well, Management Board must not have met since November, I assume. But every year -- and I sat on Management Board for three years and was a PA there -- this memo generally has little effect. The fact that the Minister of Finance didn't book any savings from this in his fall economic statement suggests he had little expectation for it to yield any results.
In the new era of openness, I ask: Do you also consider this commitment is virtually meaningless? If there was a policy directive with respect to the use of consultants with some detail, none of the senior management at this ministry, with great respect, knew about it. So I wonder whether it has been disseminated appropriately.
Also, I did note and underline in my paper that there was a separate letter from the secretary of Management Board being sent to all deputy ministers to provide additional implementation details. Do you have a copy of that, Ms Broten?
Mr Baird: No. You're just talking about the new era of openness. I think the new era of openness is characterized on this committee by two actions: by the chief government whip coming in and talking to all government members, and the new era of openness and the ray of sunshine came in; and by the seriousness with which the Queen's Park press gallery is taking this issue by their attendance at this normally non-media-attended committee.
I just want to know what requirements are in place with respect to the use of consultants. There has been great hay made of this, and I've certainly learned a lot from it. I'm sure members of the new government will learn lessons every day, which is important to do.
I do want to see, and to know definitively, what controls and directives are being made to the public service. I think we have not just a right to the information but a responsibility to fulfill our obligations as members of this committee.
Specifically on page 41, as the member for Niagara Centre has pointed out, there's a concern of the auditor. I'm aware of the processes in place before that. Mr Qaadri mentioned the $600 million and the use of consultants. I think we can do better, and I want to know what the plans are to do better to follow up the auditor's recommendation. I just can't see any reason why people would not want to allow the sunshine to come in. If all you have to do is ask, I'm asking.
Mrs Munro: My question has to do with two parts of this report, because I think they are contingent on each other. At the end, where the auditor's report talks about performance reporting, it seems to me from looking at this that the question around technology is very much an integral part of performance reporting and measurement.
In your comments this morning, you referred to the Frank technology. One of the comments you made, which I think is important in the context we're looking at today, was that prior to that and not so long ago there was nothing more than handwritten records. I want to talk a little bit more about some of the problems that are identified with the performance measurement, but I wonder if we could begin by looking at the question of the role of technology in the context of performance measurement. When you look at your system as you have described it, where would you put the ministry on a continuum of change? How far along are you in what you would see as a place where you could stand proudly and say, "We've implemented these measures and can now turn around and start acting on some of the materials we have identified"?
Mr Segal: It's a thought-provoking question in terms of giving a report card. I think, as the auditor notes, we have to do more, and we're committed to doing more. You have referred to some of the areas, such as the rollout of the Frank system. As well, there are the improvements to the ICON system, the electronic courtroom, e-filing and those kinds of things.
I think the general issue of finding measurements so that we can move toward results constantly drives us. I don't think we're all the way there. I think the steps we have outlined today in terms of, for example, in the criminal sphere, getting more meaningful information about what happened on appearances and then moving toward results and having discussions, having an open mind about what can provide the best results for the public, are the correct steps that we're taking.
The processes we have in place or were thinking about, should they be changed more? I think we're well on the continuum. We're not quite there yet, but it is important to keep making progress. I think the comments of the auditor assist us in that respect, and we're very focused on providing better technology, better measurements and better results.
Mrs Munro: Thank you very much. I guess that leads me into the second part of my question, which again is more specifically related to the performance measurement exercise. One of the comments made earlier today was about, for instance, the better use of the facilities and knowing the possibility of a change by the individual to a guilty plea and the opportunity that represents within court times.
There's also in your response to the auditor's comment something about the program evaluations and the fact that, from what you have here, in December there would have been the evaluation of the enforcement activity and judicial support services as your first step and then the dates for the other two. Taking these two ideas, then, in terms of the way in which you are looking at those efficiencies in the court system and the evaluation analysis that you have undertaken, what do you see coming out of that in terms of where you go from here on performance measures?
Mr Segal: One of the things I indicated in my morning remarks was that we were quite delighted that the first annual court services report is out and is on the Web site. That's very recent, and I would commend the use of that. It's there for the public and, of course, for all honourable members. In it you will see that in excess of 40 standards have been identified. It's very transparent about what the court services division is trying to do in terms of providing greater access, efficiency, timeliness, better information, better standards and so forth. We're quite delighted, but we're at the beginning of a very important process to better measure our performance. There will be a second report and a third report. Those standards have been come up with in conjunction with the judiciary in a broad dialogue within the court services division. We're very hopeful that they will inform this process of improving, measuring ourselves and providing measurements and results that the public can read, examine and challenge.
Mr Segal: I think, as the Provincial Auditor mentioned, it's a very important issue in terms of our challenges. It's something that I think all of us in the ministry have worked very hard on, and attorneys general past and the current Attorney General, in terms of ensuring that cases are heard on their merits and heard in as timely a fashion as possible. The issue of criminal offences, being involved or tied up in a criminal offence, can be somewhat traumatic. All of our business lines are very important to people. In criminal offences, because of this constitutional ability to have a charge stopped without being dealt with on the merits, it's really important that we continue to challenge ourselves and look at improvements to our engineering system, measuring and results. It's right up there.
Ms Broten: My question is with respect to measurements. We've spoken a lot today about criminal law, and I wanted to speak for a minute, if we could, about measurements and information that might better support family law and child welfare cases. Obviously, because of charter challenges, we have a focus in our justice system on the need to have an efficient criminal process, but you need only sit in a courtroom for a very short period of time and watch the consequences of languishing child welfare cases and family law cases. I'm wondering if there are any specific initiatives you might be able to talk to us about -- how we are going to measure efficiencies in those areas.
Mr Segal: I think you've touched upon a very important issue, which is the protection of children. It cuts across several of the ministry's functions: criminal, child welfare and family law, to name a few. It's very important that we look at this in an organized and holistic manner and look at opportunities to better serve children across the board. Many of the children are crossovers between one part of the system and another part of the system, as you well know and are working on as part of your current initiatives.
We have noticed that changes made to the child welfare legislation in recent years have placed some pressures on the system. If you look, for example, at the Ontario Court of Justice, we're now starting to see that there are in some jurisdictions competing requests, demands, from child welfare and the criminal system, which includes charges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
We have been in discussion to see if we can look at this as one group and to look at the pressures and bring together all of the people who might have some insights. To that end, as part of the summits that I referred to earlier, there is a child protection summit to bring together people from the child welfare area, the judiciary, the CAS units, the ministry and many other players to look at this emerging challenge. I think that just as much as we need to keep working very much ahead of the issue of criminal inventories and backlog, the same is holding true and holds true of the important goal of child welfare cases and the protection of children. There is a connection -- there are many connections -- and we have put in place an organization, a group with a desire of getting everybody contributing to the discussion and moving ahead at some joint solutions.
Ms Paulseth: We prioritized the need for a consistent case tracking system, particularly with the child protection caseload in mind, because we did not have one consistent system in the province. We did start to implement the Frank system in October. We think that will help. That implementation should be completed by the end of this calendar year, and that will assist the groups in the initiatives that the deputy was referring to.
Ms Broten: My question is with respect to measurabilities from the perspective of complainants and victims coming forward through the court system. As we move forward and we talk about a backlog, we're often focused on the individual -- as we would need to do so under the charter -- who has been charged and that that moves through the system for their benefit. At the same time, are the measurabilities and effectiveness measures you intend to put in place going to examine whether or not the ultimate result is satisfactory to the complainant, the victim and society at large? For example, when you see dealing on the main charge and then the breaches of some restrictive order get dealt away, great, you've dealt with five charges, but you have a victim or a complainant who is unhappy about that circumstance because it's not a satisfactory result to her.
Mr Segal: That's a very interesting question. As you well appreciate, the decision as to whether a particular charge proceeds or doesn't proceed has to do with a number of factors. Those factors include, oftentimes, the strength of the case -- they have to -- the admissibility of the evidence and features such as that. Crowns, for example, as we all understand, are under a continuing duty to keep vetting the information to make sure that the strength of the case is there.
On the victim's end, it's very important to have a dialogue. For example, crown lawyers are there not to represent the victims but to represent the public, which includes the victims. It's critical that victims have the necessary information so that they have confidence in the administration of justice. Therefore, over the years, the ministry has devoted some of its energies, appropriately, to enhancing victim and witness services, to working with communities to better support victims and the like. That particular secretariat has pursued the issue of quality service and quality information to victims, working toward what are appropriate standards and goals to be met in terms of conveying information.
Not everyone may agree with the path of a particular case, but providing victims with the information and an opportunity for meaningful input and the like are things that we do measure in terms of satisfaction. We are committed to doing that, and we will try to keep working in that particular area.
Mr Zimmer: My question has to do with measurability and information management. The selection and implementation and the management of information management systems is hugely complex. Any organization often will come on the rocks just because of not selecting the proper information management system or administering it properly, particularly a ministry that's as complex as your ministry, with multiple stakeholders and all kinds of factors that you can't really control.
What sorts of processes or attitudes do you bring to bear on this whole question of selecting the IT providers and the information managers? If they get it wrong or if the technical system is not right, it can't give you the information that you need in the whole system.
Mr Segal: I think that's a very good question. I'm not being facetious, but the Provincial Auditor continues to remind us of how important it is to select appropriate measurements, factors and results. We take the report seriously in doing that. We have moved toward an approach that involves all of the diverse users you've mentioned and brings them together so that suggestions can be made about common areas of interest, about what would be appropriate matters to measure and how it would be done respecting all of the stakeholders' issues, which include the diverse and important factors you've touched on, such as independence. Our approach is not to be internal and to pretend to be expert; we do pay attention, we do appreciate our work with multiple users to have stakeholder committees to get input before we come to conclusions about design, so we can get it right where the stakes, as you've touched on, are that important.
Mrs Sandals: We touched briefly, earlier, on the integrated justice project. I must admit, with my background, I tend to have a horror of megaprojects, because they often tend to collapse under their own weight. There was, I understand, $21 million spent on IJP. Could you give us some understanding of what we actually got to show for that $21 million as a province, as a justice system; not so much where we're going to go forward and do other projects as backfill, but for that $21 million what did we actually end up with as deliverables?
Mr Segal: Mrs Sandals, as I touched upon earlier today, what I indicated was a significant number of activities that are underway at various states of completion within the ministry and particular divisions within the ministry. I'm not going to repeat them here. What I also indicated was that a notice of action had been filed in the courts and that discussions continue between EDS and ministries. In that respect, it would not be prudent for me to discuss something that was before the courts. So I very much appreciate the question, but because of the nature of those particular matters that I've outlined, I'm not able to assist you any further.
Mrs Sandals: OK. Can I, then, go off on a slightly different tack. One of the things you mentioned in terms of technologies that do show some promise is the whole issue of video remand. The auditor has noted the issue of court security. I suppose part of court security is reducing risk; and having prisoners actually on-site is one way of reducing risk. I understand that there has been some resistance from defence counsels in some cases around using video remand. You do seem to have venues for joint discussions. What is happening to encourage the use of video remand, in that it would have some helpful effects both on court security and the whole business of just trucking inmates up and down highways?
Mr Segal: With respect to something like video remands, time tends to provide some comfort. People are sometimes somewhat concerned about possible changes to the tried and true methods. After some initial resistance, I think getting to use the system and ironing out some of the bumps in the road from a technological point of view have made people feel more comfort. You have to ensure, of course, that there are opportunities for it to be done in a respectful way, that it's done so the quality of the transmissions is excellent, and those sorts of things, respecting solicitor-client privilege and the like.
I think, at the end of the day, it's still a very human process. There would be some defence counsel who rightfully would see, for example, that a face-to-face meeting regarding an important discussion might be in order; and while video remand might be open to use, no one would say that in that particular case, it wouldn't be a good idea for counsel to meet face to face to discuss an important event or to get a meeting of the minds or to agree to cut down on the number of issues that need to be dealt with.
One has to bear in mind that there is this human element, but we are making great strides in terms of its acceptance. I think that's proven by the number of sites -- in excess of 120, as I recall -- throughout the province. We will continue to look at it to ensure that it does provide the kinds of efficiencies that might be helpful, including on issues such as security and cost and the like.
Mrs Sandals: Mr Chair, if the legal discussions around the IJP resolve soon enough, that might be something that the committee would wish to follow up on later, because we seem to have $21 million that has disappeared and not a good sense of what we have to show for it.
The Chair: I think, as the negotiations or the lawsuit comes forward, those issues as to how much the government benefited will become clearer and probably under greater scrutiny than in most situations, because both sides will be putting forward what the value of services might or might not be. I wouldn't characterize the $21 million as disappearing at this point in time. At least I think we should give the benefit to the conclusion of the process, and then make our decisions at that point in time.
Could I just ask one question as the Chair as we're wrapping up today? The youth justice program has done a great deal to alleviate some of the pressures on youth court. As I understand it, this is a program which puts the victim, puts the police, puts the offender in the same room. Particularly with young people, it has had tremendous beneficial advantages in terms of recidivism and those kinds of things not occurring.
As I understood it, we were into most communities in southern Ontario. I want to ask a very, very parochial question as to when it is going to hit Lanark county, which is part of the area that I represent.
Mr Segal: As I recall, we have youth justice committees in a number of communities -- about 22 communities. We have plans for some degree of expansion. There are many communities in the east region, where you come from, that have those particular committees. Lanark is, as yet, not one of them. There is some community interest that has emerged, I am informed, from that particular constituency. It will be evaluated in terms of our ability to go forward and community readiness, along with other interested communities who are all vying and seeking to look at that particular program or a variation of it or improvements to it coming to their community soon.
As I indicated in my opening remarks, the issue of youth diversion is something that we are looking at and will be looking at across the board, including these youth justice committees. While I can't give you an exact date, I note your personal interest, and I appreciate that interest on behalf of your constituency.
The Chair: If there are no further questions of the Attorney General or the Attorney General's staff, perhaps we can thank them. Thank you, Deputy. Thank you all for appearing today. We will take your words and produce a report, probably within the next two to three months, with regard to your response to the auditor's suggestions. We may in fact be in touch with you again with regard to the additional information which I asked you for before. If you could possibly provide that before Parliament resumes on March 22, that would be appreciated, and that would give us an opportunity to include it in our deliberations with regard to what we've done today. If there's any further expansion on any of the information which you have provided, I also invite you to include that expansion to us, and possibly if it can happen before March 22, that would be most timely for us.
To the other members of the committee, if you would like to stay for a few minutes, and then we can perhaps talk briefly with our researcher to give him some direction at this point. I hope that meeting would not take more than 15 or 20 minutes. I'll give each member the opportunity to say something to the researcher to give him a little bit of direction as to what he might include in his report.
Mr Murray Segal, acting Deputy Attorney General
Ms Debra Paulseth, assistant Deputy Attorney General, court services
Mr Stephen Rhodes, assistant Deputy Attorney General,
corporate services management division
Mr John McMahon, director of crown operations, Toronto region