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.
Honourable senators and honourable members of the House of Commons, I see a quorum. As the Senate joint clerk of your committee, it is my duty to preside over the election of the Senate joint chair, and I am now prepared to receive nominations to that effect.
Yes. I want to welcome everybody to the committee. We'll see you next year when we have the next meeting.
I did want to put a motion before the committee to invite the Parliamentary Budget Officer to appear before the committee to review the expense with respect to government spending that relates to the Library of Parliament.
Historically, the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported to Parliament via this committee. That has changed, and he no longer does that. We have not had the Parliamentary Budget Officer before this committee in about five years, and it's about time that we did. In my discussions with him, he said he would pleased to come and enlighten us about government spending on this. As we will be going through so many changes over the next few years, it would be interesting to find out how the Library of Parliament fits into these changes on an ongoing basis. Plus, I'm sure he will have other things to say about government expenditures that might be of interest to all members.
On time for opening remarks and questioning of witnesses, it states:
That witnesses appearing before the Committee be given ten (10) minutes to make their opening statement and that during the questioning of witnesses the time allocated to each questioner be five (5) minutes.
The next motion is on meeting without a quorum. It states:
That the quorum be fixed at six (6) members, provided that each House is represented, and that a (1) member from a non-government party or recognized parliamentary group and that a (1) 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 a non-government party or recognized parliamentary group and a member from the government, and provided that each House is represented.
That, at the discretion of the Joint Chairs, the Committee may reimburse reasonable travelling and living expenses including child care and/or personal attendant care for one (1) 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.
That each member of the Committee be allowed to have a staff member present at in camera meeting, in addition each party or recognized parliamentary group be permitted to have one (1) staff member from the Whip's office present.
Senators and members, I'll just clarify this. With the formation of the Independent Senators Group in the Senate, which does not function as a party, the term “recognized parliamentary group” was added to our rules. It refers, in the Senate context specifically, to the Independent Senators Group.
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.
Back in 2014, the committee passed a motion calling on the Library of Parliament to provide access on its public website to the Order Paper answers that had been made orders for return. As far as I can tell, they are currently on the intraparl site, but not available on the library's public website. We would simply like the Library of Parliament to adhere to the motion that was passed in 2014. It was presented by Liberal MP Scott Simms at the time. They already have the documents scanned and on the internal site. We believe the public should have access to them, as was mentioned in the motion that was passed back in 2014.
The motion is amended, because it was the 39th Parliament, and this is for the 40th. I move:
That, whereas the Library of Parliament already scans Sessional Papers which are tabled in response to Order Paper Questions in the House of Commons, and makes the scanned copies available on the Parliamentary Intranet, that the Library of Parliament provide unfettered access for all Canadians to these same documents on the public internet site, and that such access be provided, from the beginning of the 40th Parliament and future scanned Sessional Papers, as soon as practicable.
That is my amended motion. I repeat that this motion is the same except the amendment is that this is the 40th Parliament.
I find it pretty surprising that the Library of Parliament hasn't conformed to the request of this committee. I find it disheartening, in fact, that they have not done so and are not offering open and transparent access to information to all Canadians. I would support this motion.
I'd like to ask Mr. Van Kesteren, if he could elaborate a little more on the history of this and what seems to be the problem for something, as Mr. Ouellette says, that is pretty basic to the functioning of our democracy.
I'm curious as to whether the motion is redundant. If the direction has already been given, wouldn't it be incumbent upon the Library of Parliament to follow that direction? If not, is there a reason somebody can offer that it hasn't been followed to date? Is anybody able to provide that information? It seems odd.
It would seem to me a very good question, but a question better directed to the librarian. Perhaps, as you develop the agenda for future meetings, the librarian should be one of the first people we hear from. Obviously, one of the first questions will note that this committee passed this motion on said date and will ask why it has not been implemented. That's a good question to put to the librarian, and this is the place to do it.
Of course, we'd need to hear from the librarian, but I'm not sure of the exact date you mentioned that the motion was passed. It speaks to the 39th Parliament, and if it were late in the session, that might perhaps be a reason.
I would respectfully suggest, if the intent is to let the sun shine in, that we might fall into a similar situation by just referencing the motion for the current session of Parliament. If a friendly amendment were considered, it would be that we not reference just one particular session, but that going forward this be the policy for all sessions of Parliament. That would then limit us strictly to what we have left going forward.
I see there's some confusion as to whether or not this motion, which was passed—2014, of course is when it was passed—has been implemented.
Could we possibly agree that we adopt that type of motion, but have the Parliaments...?
The problem is this, of course, that the last time we met I think was three years ago. I really wouldn't want to prolong this to a period of time. That's the reason we thought we should make a new motion that would implement this. If we can work something out here, that makes sense....
The intent, of course, is that from this time forward we enact this motion that was passed in 2014.
I do have a question for you, or maybe a proposition. Could we ask why it hasn't been implemented and receive the information as to the reasons? Then from there we'll have the answers to the question, and maybe we won't need the motion.
I was just going to add that there might be a legitimate reason that it wasn't carried out, so just by passing a motion to call on the Library of Parliament to enact a previous motion might not end up accomplishing what you want. Ultimately, what you need is to get the information from the librarian on why this hasn't occurred, and then the next step would be to go from there.
I'm not suggesting that it wait three years for that to happen, but perhaps that's the best course of action. This committee has just tasked itself with something to do, so it would be great to see that information come back so you can understand why and then make a decision as to how to proceed.
It's a good idea. The other proposition that is being put forward by our helpers here is that in a couple of weeks we could reconvene to look at the estimates. The clerk will be here and we would be able to ask the question at that time.
It has been proposed that we receive the Parliamentary Budget Officer to address the budget of the library. Just before the meeting, I spoke with the analysts and wondered whether it might be appropriate to invite the parliamentary librarian to come and talk about the studies that should be done. The idea is that we can find out what the researchers at the library need. There has been talk, I think, of a study called Parliament 2020, which was started but has not been completed. This study could be continued if it still meets a need.
I therefore propose that the librarian appear before us and that the research needs be identified.