Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
With the committee's consent, I will now proceed with the election of two vice-chairs for this committee. The candidate of the first vice-chair must belong to the official opposition. Are there any nominations?
Ms. Hughes has been proposed as the first vice-chair of the committee. Is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt the motion?
(Motion agreed to)
The Joint Clerk (Mr. Alexandre Roger): I duly declare Ms. Hughes elected first vice-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament. Congratulations.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
The Joint Clerk (Mr. Alexandre Roger): We will now proceed with the election of the second vice-chair. This time the candidate shall be the member of the opposition party other than the official opposition. Are there any nominations?
Dear colleagues, I want to thank you for the confidence you have shown us today. I don't think this meeting will be very long. We will mainly be going over routine motions.
We thank you very much for the confidence you gave us today. I think it's actually quite representative of the fact that this committee works in a non-partisan manner that a member of the government party proposed the name of my colleague, my old friend Marie Poulin, and that a member of the opposition was gracious enough to propose my name. So thank you very much.
The first motion on the table is one for the analyst services. The motion is 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. Do I have a mover?
We now invite the analysts to join us because they too were elected.
The second motion we are moving is about the time for opening remarks and the questioning of witnesses.
What is being suggested, if I can find a mover, is that witnesses appearing before the committee be given ten minutes to make their opening statement and that during the questioning of witnesses the time allocated to each questioner be five minutes. Do I have a mover?
The third motion is about the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure. The motion reads as follows:
That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be composed of the joint chairs, the vice-chairs, and three (3) other members of the committee representing, from the Senate, the Conservative Party, and from the House of Commons, the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party, to be designated after the usual consultations; and that the subcommittee be empowered to make decisions on behalf of the committee with respect to its agenda, to invite witnesses, and to schedule hearings.
I recognize the intent that the drafters wrote in this, but in terms of just practice and the fact that we don't really wear partisan hats here, I would rather that where it says “the Conservative Party” it would say “the government party”,le parti ministériel, and where it says “the New Democratic Party”, it would say “the official opposition party”,le parti de l'opposition officielle. This way it becomes a template for any situation and it doesn't have the same political flavour.
How often does the subcommittee meet? It seems that we could dispense with “that the subcommittee be empowered to make decisions on behalf of the committee”, that you could just have these subcommittee meetings.
Actually, even this committee does not meet very often. However, it is important to have a subcommittee because certain decisions need to be made sometimes. Without a subcommittee, it is as if are were giving that power to the staff, and I don't think we want to do that.
I support your suggestion. “Conservative Party” appears in two places. I fully agree that we should change that.
To get back to Senator Eaton's question, all the other committees we sit on have a steering committee where orders of the day can be discussed. Following that discussion, the agenda is submitted to the main committee. As Mr. Galipeau said.... I was here during the last Parliament, and I don't think that the subcommittee held any meetings....
It's what we call a “steering committee” in English. It's a type of subcommittee. It is made up of three people and focuses mainly on the agenda and similar issues. The steering committee makes no decisions on behalf of the committee.
To make decisions on behalf of the committee—
If it were a matter of preparing the agenda, or setting business or travel terms, and then making a recommendation to the main committee, I would understand. It is the wording that's bothersome. The motion does not talk about a steering committee or an executive committee. It does not say that members must submit recommendations to the main committee afterwards.
I feel that it does not mean anything; it is not an explanation. I don't mean to slow us down, but I think the motion is poorly worded. If we are talking about a steering committee or an executive committee, the motion should say so.
Actually, I have already moved an amendment. With the committee's consent, we could probably ask the joint clerks and the analysts to consider your comments and reword the motion for our next meeting. I suggest that we only adopt today's motion once you are satisfied. Is that okay?
Mr. Joint Chair, allow me to make a comment. I find the issue raised by my colleague interesting. She is bringing to light the differences between the traditions of Senate committees and those of House of Commons committees. It's really interesting: the Senate was supposedly created to provide sober second thought, and my colleague Senator Eaton is providing sober second thought on how the joint committee works.
Thank you. We've dealt with the wording you talked about then.
I see another concern here as well, beyond the wording of Conservative, as opposed to government, and parties, as opposed to opposition.
I don't think that how this is now structured for the subcommittee actually reflects what you see in the composition of the House of Commons and the Senate. It now has the opposition outnumbering the government members on the committee, which I don't think is appropriate. It should reflect the reality of the makeup of the chambers.
So I suggest we correct that by dropping the one additional member of the New Democratic Party, or in this case the official opposition, as we're going to word it. I think that would only be fair in ensuring that we're mirroring the makeup of the chambers. So I would make the motion that we drop that one member from the subcommittee.
That's probably a reasonable comment. The way it's drafted now represents the makeup of the House at the beginning of the 40th Parliament, but the makeup of both houses at the beginning of the 41st Parliament is somewhat different.
The next thing you will tell me is that you want to remove one of our representatives from the subcommittee. I will oppose that suggestion. We will have three members representing each side: three members for the Senate, three members for the Conservatives and three members for the NDP. There will be the chair, the vice-chair and the vice-chairs of the two other parties. I think equality would be lost if someone were removed. The vice-chair, Mr. Galipeau, is a member of the government.
You were right in what you said in the beginning. After that, we'd be talking about a member of the government from the Senate, a member of the government from the House of Commons and a member of the official opposition from the House of Commons. That is how the motion is currently worded, without taking into consideration the amendments Mr. Richards suggested.
Just for clarification, what you're suggesting is that based on the comments that have been made, something will be drafted and brought back for our consideration, which could be amended at that time as well?
They are indeed supposed to be seven. There are two joint chairs, two vice-chairs and three other people.
Do you agree with the clerk team reviewing the motion and getting back to us with a reworded text? We can then discuss it again and even amend the new motion if needed.
Do you agree with that, Mrs. Hughes? Great.
We now go on to the fourth motion, on meeting without a quorum:
That the quorum be fixed at six (6) members, provided that each house is represented, and that a member from the opposition and that a member from the government are present whenever a vote, resolution or other decision is taken; and that the joint chairs be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and have that evidence published when a quorum is not present, provided that at least three (3) members are present, including a member from the opposition and a member from the government, and provided that each house is represented.
We have in camera meetings to discuss and go over the reports before they go out. The steering committee meets in camera and those proceedings are not published. Again, it depends on whether it is the committee of the whole or the steering committee. If we're going through a report with the clerks and the researchers, sometimes those meetings are in camera.
The difference here is, again, between the Senate and the House of Commons. I and my co-clerk have discussed this. The reason this was changed is that in the Senate this is how it's worded. I've changed this and I took out the part about in camera. When we have an in camera meeting, there is nothing that's published. There's only a copy of the blues that's kept in the co-clerk's office, under lock and key, and nothing goes out to the web.
Even if we write it or don't write it here, it doesn't change the fact that it's going to be that way. There's no mechanism for it to be published if it is in camera.
We were going to reflect on whether that prior motion could be reworded, but if you have already gone through that—it sounds like you have—I guess we are okay if you're okay. But it seems to be a little bit too open in what it doesn't explain.
Just quickly, I would like to specify that, when we meet in camera, what we discuss never goes out. The minutes of the proceedings of those meetings are not published, regardless of the organization, governmental or not. We are now of course talking only about committee documents that will be published.
We are at the service of the committee members. If the committee would be more comfortable with more extensive wording, we can always bring an amendment to the motion. The clerks would be comfortable--
That is the wording for the Senate; that was the only rationale.
An amendment to this motion could be that in camera meetings will not be published. It's as simple as that, and that is the way we'll write it. We could propose to change it and adopt it at the committee.
Usually, the committee gives the instructions. Also, since the joint chair obtains instructions from the House in advance, he can make the decision. Now, it just says that you can make the decision without the committee's approval.
You are asked to authorize joint chairs to approve expenditures. You know that out-of-pocket expenses are involved. Last year's budget for this committee was about $10,000. Unless I'm mistaken, the Senate covered 30% and the House covered 70% of that total. So we're talking about 70% of $10,000. The joint chairs would approve the invoices, like the one for your meal today. That's what we're talking about.
We are asking you to authorize us to do that, so that we don't have to call a meeting to approve a $50 invoice. In our absence, we authorize the joint clerks to take care of that.
I'm wondering if the concern is not that the clerk can authorize a bill for lunch, because motion nine already approves working meals. The concern is approving things that aren't within a budget that the committee has approved already.
I want to give further clarification, if I may. Any expenses over $20,000 have to be approved by this committee, but sometimes there are expenses for witnesses. We invite witnesses to come, they incur expenses, and we have to pay them.
We're not changing it. We're just bringing it back, because this committee doesn't take direction from the committee of the 40th Parliament. This committee is master of its own destiny. We proposed similar or exact motions at the beginning of this same committee in the 40th Parliament, but they're not the master of the 41st Parliament; we're the master of this committee in the 41st Parliament.
The Joint Chair (Senator Marie-Paule Poulin): The eighth motion is about travel, accommodation and living expenses of witnesses:
That, at the discretion of the joint chairs, the committee may reimburse reasonable travelling and living expenses for one witness from any one organization and that payment will take place upon application, but that the joint chairs be authorized to approve expenses for a second witness should there be exceptional circumstances.
The tenth motion is about access to in camera meetings:
That each member of the committee be allowed to have staff present at in camera meetings, unless there is a decision for a particular meeting to exclude all staff.
Do I have a mover? Monsieur Pilon.
(Motion agreed to)
The Joint Chair (Senator Marie-Paule Poulin): Now to notice of motion: That 48 hours notice be required for any substantive motion to be considered by the committee, unless the substantive motion relates directly to business then under consideration, and that the notice of motion be filed with the joint clerks of the committee and distributed to members in both official languages.
Do I have a mover? Mr. Zimmer.
(Motion agreed to)
The Joint Chair (Senator Marie-Paule Poulin): I think you have in front of you the draft report, dated today, Thursday, September 29. Therefore, the motion would be that the committee adopt its first report and present it to the Senate.
It's the whole thing: the first part is the order of reference, then additional motions that are required, and then the expense report, which is required by the Senate. You can see it's big bucks.
Do I have a mover so that it can be discussed after people have read it?
Do you want me to read it officially? I can read it.
An hon. member: Dispense.
The Joint Chair (Senator Marie-Paule Poulin): Dispense? Okay.
Just for background information, the clerk for the Senate can give you the tradition of the Senate, in terms of orders of reference, just so that we all know why this is necessary for the Senate at this time.
For our purposes at the Senate, with regard to any studies that a committee wishes to undertake, we actually have to have the permission of the chamber. It's not like at the House of Commons, where a committee can choose to study a subject matter on its own. We actually have to get the authorization of the chamber to undertake a study.