BILI Committee Meeting
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Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament
Thursday, November 29, 2007
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Are there any other motions?
(Motion agreed to)
Senator Trenholme Counsell, congratulations.
I'm now ready to receive motions to elect a joint chair from the House of Commons.
Are there any nominations?
It has been proposed that Mr. Calkins be elected co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament.
Are there any further motions?
(Motion agreed to)
My colleague and I now invite the two co-chairs to take their places.
First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Byrne for nominating me to be the co-chair. I certainly appreciate it. This is my first opportunity as a member of Parliament to serve as a committee chair in an official capacity, and I certainly am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that will present themselves at this most distinguished committee.
I'd certainly like to congratulate my co-chair from the Senate, as well.
I believe now that the next item of business is the election of vice-chairs.
I would like now to entertain motions for a vice-chair from the House of Commons.
Do I have any nominations?
Are there any other nominations?
(Motion agreed to)
You could just read them quickly into the record.
The first motion is on services of analysts from the Library of Parliament: that the committee retain, as needed and at the discretion of the joint chairs, the services of one or more analysts from the Library of Parliament to assist in its work.
(Motion agreed to)
The second motion is that the joint clerks of the committee be authorized to distribute to the members of the committee only documents that are available in both official languages.
(Motion agreed to)
(Motion agreed to)
Is there any further business? Are there any further wishes of the committee to discuss routine motions?
Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, you should also find a document in your package that deals with the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament.
Is there any discussion on this report? Is there anybody who has any points they would like to raise?
Is there any discussion?
(Motion agreed to)
The Joint Chair (Mr. Blaine Calkins): Is it agreed that the joint chairs present the report to the Senate and to the House of Commons?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Blaine Calkins): At this point, I think there are some things we should discuss. Under new business, Ms. Bennett has an item, but I know Mr. Oliver had brought up something earlier in the meeting.
Mr. Oliver, you have the floor.
I'm a strong fan of the Library of Parliament, and I'm honoured to serve on this committee.
As you know, when Parliament passed the Accountability Act, one of the new creations in that act was a parliamentary budget officer. This officer will be in the Library of Parliament. I understand that substantial efforts have been made to set up this new bureau.
One of the things this new bureau will do is assist committees both in the Senate and in the House of Commons with the estimates and financial documents. It seems to me that it would be extremely important for us to have some involvement and some say in its development, since it will impact directly on the work of both the House of Commons and the Senate.
I think it would be wonderful if we could call the librarian and other senior officials before this committee to give an accounting of how things are proceeding, when it can be up and running, its mandate, how they interpret its mandate, and how it can help us do our work as parliamentarians.
I would like to open that up for discussion. It's something I would like to see.
I love this committee and I think it's a different kind of committee, because we almost form an advisory committee to the parliamentary library. It's not an oversight kind of committee. It tends to be a committee that's been much more forward-looking and really is making sure that Parliament can hold government to account when government has way more resources than Parliament ever will. It means we actually have to have the library respond to what we need as parliamentarians and as committees.
So I support the senator's suggestion that the parliamentary librarian come with other officials and give us an overview of what the library is doing—I think there have been some exciting changes—and what his vision and direction is, including this very important new appointment of the parliamentary budget officer that has come from the Accountability Act.
You had something to add, Senator?
As I'm sure a number of you have, and perhaps all of you, I read the history of this committee. It's always good to just go back for a moment on history.
The first meeting of this committee was on June 27, 1850, and the first meeting after Confederation was on April 14, 1871. So we have a very long history to uphold, honour, and advance. The committee has functioned continuously, with the exception of the period from 1986 to 1991, when it failed to meet, and it was reinstituted in 1991.
I know, of course, that the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, was very active on this committee during the period of 2002 to 2003, I believe, one of the most active periods in the time of the committee.
At our last meeting, at the one and only meeting in the first session of the 39th Parliament, there was a decision taken--I don't know whether it was recorded--that we would ask Mr. Young and whomever else he might like to bring with him to come before the committee and to discuss the work of this committee's relationship to the library or vice versa, however would be the proper way of putting it. He's very open. In fact, I spoke to him recently. He's looking forward to that opportunity. In view of the request that has just now been made, I think he would be more than willing to include that in the presentation.
Senator Lapointe was very anxious that we have a meeting, hopefully more than just a few minutes in length, where we could indeed discuss the committee and what we should be doing and what we could do for the betterment of the library and the betterment of Parliament and Canadians.
Most certainly, I know that Mr. Young would gladly include that in the outline for his presentation.
I think in the last Parliament we did talk a little bit about getting for the committee more of a broad overview of the activities of the library, so that we as a committee can become more actively aware of exactly the roles they play and actually be able to respond to changing times and changing mandates for the library and for its staff, and for the resources they require.
One of the things that I would like the committee to consider is a general review of the overall resourcing of the library, not just for the budgetary officer or the office but for the library generally.
If you actually go through some of the main estimates documents and the budgeting for the Parliament of Canada, both houses respectively have seen relatively substantial resource increases for the provision of services to both the senators and the members.
I don't really recall seeing a whole lot of attention paid to resourcing for the Library of Parliament, especially in light of the fact that some of the demands that have been placed on the library and its research staff and other functions have indeed been increasing. The demands by parliamentarians in both houses, I understand, have increased over the course of time, yet resources have not.
I think it's a really important function for the Library of Parliament committee to ensure that resourcing for the library matches the expectations that we as parliamentarians put on it. So I'd like to consider that as an agenda item.
As part of it, you mentioned that a short study could be conducted on the parliamentary budget office. Maybe what we could do is consider a further study or a larger study on resourcing within the library itself.
Is there anybody else who would like to speak to this?
I would suggest that if it were possible to do before we break, to have the overview, and then we could think about it and see what kinds of studies we want.
There are many other things we were working on in terms of resources, in terms of dreaming in technicolor, keeping people up to date, allowing researchers sabbaticals. There are a lot of things that other parliaments are able to do, and certainly we were very impressed at the C2D2 conference with John Pullinger, the librarian from London, as well as with Soledad Ferreiro from Chile, who presented in terms of the very forward-looking approaches their libraries have been able to take when they have the support of parliamentarians.
Let's let the parliamentary librarian come and we'll see where that takes us.
That the Committee invite senior managers from the Library of Parliament for a briefing session on the Library's activities, services, and key issues; and that background documentation be provided (e.g. the Library's mandate, role, organization chart, etc.).
We certainly never had an opportunity to fulfill the intention of that motion. I wonder if that would adequately cover the spirit of the discussion that's here before us. I don't know if it actually does, because I think what Senator Oliver has brought forward is to go a little bit beyond that. So perhaps we could append that to the motion.
I don't know, Mr. Byrne, if you wanted to bring your motion forward again with a friendly amendment from Senator Oliver that would include the issues that he wants to have discussed here. I believe they are consistent with what Ms. Bennett wants. I think we would probably have consensus around the table.
So, Senator, if you'd agree—
If we could have somebody move that motion--
Is there any further discussion?
(Motion agreed to) [See Minutes of Proceedings]
To the researchers, Mr. Young may decide that is indeed what he wants to do, what he and his staff and you would like to do, in order to do it adequately. Otherwise we may just find ourselves rushing through the agenda without the proper discussion that I'm sure all members would wish to have.
Is there any other business?
I think we've resolved that, then. I will gladly discuss that with my co-chair here, and we will come up with a schedule that works for all parties involved and get back to—
Is there any other business to be discussed?
There is a motion to adjourn by Mr. Allen.
Thank you very much. We're adjourned.