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.
Pursuant to the special order passed by the House of Commons in April of this year, the first vice-chair must be a member of the Conservative Party or the official opposition. I am now prepared to receive motions for the position of first vice-chair.
I just want to thank everyone for electing me as joint chair. I know that Yonah and I will work very hard and very well together. We've talked enough on planes going back to British Columbia every Thursday night, so I think we know each other quite well.
Mr. Virani, we have a list of these routine motions. Are you talking about the ones to constitute this committee and going forward? Should we continue with that or do you have something else that you were proposing?
The Joint Chair (Hon. Yonah Martin): If I may, Madam Joint Chair, I have a brief bio of each of the analysts, Julia Nicol and Marlisa Tiedemann, for everyone to see.
If Julia and Marlisa would turn on their video, I'll have a brief bio of each of them just to show the experience they bring to our committee.
Marlisa Tiedemann is a lawyer who has been an analyst and manager with the Library of Parliament since 2004. She has worked primarily in health law and indigenous affairs. She has worked on end-of-life issues throughout her career, including supporting the 2016 Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying and she has written various publications on the topic. As a manager, she has supervised the team that works on social development-related issues, including disability-related issues.
Julia Nicol is a lawyer who works as an analyst in the justice and national security section and has worked at the Library of Parliament since 2009. She works primarily in criminal law, human rights, gender and foreign affairs, and has written a number of publications about medical assistance in dying. She has supported a variety of House of Commons and Senate committees, including the 2016 Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, as well as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. She has also worked for Health Canada on medical assistance in dying.
We have two very capable analysts who will be working with us.
Now we come to the second motion. Do I have a mover for motion two?
I see Mr. Virani's hand is up, so I will read the motion:
That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be composed of the joint chairs and the vice-chairs; and that the subcommittee work in a spirit of collaboration.
(Motion agreed to)
The Joint Chair (Hon. Hedy Fry): If this motion is adopted, as you have just done, the steering committee would be composed of one Senate joint chair, one Senate vice-chair, one House joint chair and three House vice-chairs. The total steering members will be six.
It would seem to me to be reasonable, because both Senator Martin and I would not be able to vote when we make those decisions. There may need to be another senator carrying a vote, other than Senator Mégie, and similarly for the House.
Now we have a steering committee that is going to be made up of eight members. It includes one Senate joint chair, one Senate vice-chair, one House joint chair, three House vice-chairs, and one person from the House and one person from the Senate. The person from the House is Mr. Virani and the person from the Senate is Dr. Kutcher.
That the joint chairs be empowered to direct communications officer(s) assigned to the committee in the development of communications plans and products where appropriate and to request the services of the Senate Communications Directorate and of the House of Commons Social Media Team for the purposes of the promotion of their work.
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 for each round. The order of questions for the first round of questioning shall be as follows:
This is a decision we're going to have to make.
Questioning during the second round shall be as follows:
We will have to make a decision on that as well.
Is it agreed to adopt this motion? Then we need to discuss what that time would be.
Madam Chair, I would like us to consider working from a different perspective. I would suggest, coming from the Senate, that the members of the committee be allocated an equal amount of time—let's say three minutes each—for questions, instead of having groups and time allocated to parties or groups.
My proposal would be that all members be allocated the same amount of time—let's say three minutes—in order to have 45 minutes for the first round.
First of all, I think it would be better if the witnesses' opening statements were limited to seven minutes, which would leave more time for questions. Once that is settled, we can then start talking about the allocation of speaking time among committee members. I, for one, believed that witnesses were given seven minutes to make their opening statements, which already seemed plenty of time to me.
Madam Joint Chair, I just wanted to indicate that from the perspective of myself and my colleagues on the Liberal benches, we have no issues with how the senators have proposed to divide up their time. If they deem it more appropriate to take their 15-minute allocation and divide it equally among the senators who are participating in this group, we are perfectly amenable to that suggestion and would support it.
First of all, I am in favour of allowing seven minutes for opening statements. This is what is done in other committees. I think that in the discussions following the statements, the witnesses will be able to complete their thoughts while responding to relevant questions.
Secondly, I am not sure I understood Senator Dalphond's proposal. He suggested that everyone should have equal speaking time, but I am not sure I understood the length of time he suggested. I would thus like to have that clarification.
In my opinion, three minutes per round is totally insufficient.
I am rather in favour of a more conventional allocation of speaking time. In the first round of questions, it would be five minutes for everyone. In the second round, it would be four minutes for Liberal members and Conservative members, and two and a half minutes for the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, then four minutes for the Independent Senators Group and the Conservative senators, and two and a half minutes alternating between the Canadian Senators Group and the Progressive Senate Group. In the first round of questioning as well, the last five minutes would be given to the last two groups alternating from one meeting to the next.
The reason I am proposing this is that we are dealing with a bill that originates in the House, first and foremost. Under what I am proposing, 38 minutes would be allocated to the House representatives and 33 minutes to the Senate representatives. I believe that this proportion is legitimate and correct.
During the meetings, it may happen that a colleague is in the middle of a flight of oratory and that we show generosity by giving him or her our speaking time. This has happened before in the committee discussing electoral reform. I am open to such a practice when the opportunity is right.
That said, I object to the suggestion that everyone should be given three minutes equally.
I think I got muted, but it won't be the first or the last time, no doubt. Oh, the joys of Zoom meetings.
In any event, my point was that the more traditional approach and starting with the five minutes for questioning I think makes more sense. Three minutes goes by awfully quickly. Five minutes goes by awfully quickly when you're talking about important topics such as we will be discussing.
The Senate members, I think, all agree on a more equitable distribution of time. We had discussed in advance, unless I misread our emails amongst ourselves. that we would divide our time as Senator Dalphond proposed.
I am still a little confused about Senator Dalphond's proposal. When he talks about equal time, is he talking about the witnesses' speaking time or our time to ask questions? That is still not clear to me. Can Senator Dalphond clarify that, please?
My suggestion concerns the time allocated to senators for questions. I understand that the members of Parliament do not want their speaking time to be equal to that of the senators. However, the senators at least agree that their speaking time should be divided equally.
I want to be clear that, per the written routine motions, the motion that was distributed speaks to time allocation. I want to read it into the record so that we're clear, because I believe Senator Dalphond is only proposing to amend the Senate portion. There's no suggested change to the House of Commons portion.
The motion says:
That witnesses appearing before the Committee be given seven minutes to make their opening statement and that the order of questions for the first round of questioning shall be as follows: five minutes House of Commons Liberal, five minutes House of Commons Conservative, five minutes House of Commons BQ, five minutes House of Commons NDP, five minutes Independent Senators Group (Senate ISG), five minutes Senate Conservative, 5 minutes Canadian Senators Group (Senate CSG) and five minutes Progressive Senate Group (Senate PSG), alternating between the last two Senate groups from meeting to meeting.
Questioning during the second round shall be as follows: four minutes House of Commons Liberal, four minutes House of Commons Conservative, 2.5 minutes House of Commons BQ, 2.5 minutes House of Commons NDP, four minutes Senate ISG, four minutes Senate Conservative, 2.5 minutes Senate PSG and 2.5 minutes Senate CSG, alternating between the last two Senate groups from meeting to meeting.
If I understood correctly, what Mr. Dalphond is seeking to do is simply amend the configuration with respect to the senators, but not touch the configuration with respect to members of the House of Commons.
I'm looking at the amendment. Time is equal among the different senator groups, but for the Senate Conservatives, for example, our member is a co-chair. What is the process by which that time would be used?
I think it would be the same as we'd use for anybody else asking a question. Senator Martin and I, as co-chairs, will not be asking questions, but Senator Mégie is free to ask questions, like any other senator.
Madam Joint Chair, what Mr. Moore is saying is that I'm the only Conservative in the group of senators, but I'm also the co-chair. In terms of the allocated time for a Conservative senator, currently I'm both. You and I have agreed that when I'm co-chairing, we will take turns chairing panels. The panels I am chairing.... If I'm co-chairing but there is time allotted for a Conservative senator to ask questions, perhaps I could ask one of my House colleagues to take that time, if it's agreeable to the committee. I'm not sure if that's something we could work out. As co-chair I would not be involved in the questions per se, but I may make an intervention.
These are details that I feel we can work out afterwards, and I can bring them back to the committee. For now I think we're all in agreement that the witnesses should speak for seven minutes and that time allotted to senators will be divided equally, which we will work out among the senators. The rest of it is the same as proposed.
I think we've almost reached agreement on this, but it's a very good question by Mr. Moore in regard to the time allocated for a Conservative senator to ask questions, because I am the only Conservative senator at this time.
There are only so many people on the Senate committee, so I don't know if a House of Commons member could replace a Senate member. I don't think that's how joint committees work, so that's going to be a very.... It was agreed originally in the House that this is how it would be and this would be the number of people who are there, so I don't know if we can change that.
I'm not suggesting we change it at this time, but I will discuss it with my Senate colleagues. We did talk about this, and I understand the importance of everyone having allocated time. When I'm chairing, that's one thing I would need to forgo, or perhaps there are times when the co-chair could intervene at the end, depending on the time remaining. This is something I will work out.
I see a few more hands, so I'm wondering if we should hear from our members and then try to conclude this motion.
No, the original motion was Senator Dalphond's, and then Mr. Thériault made an amendment to it. We need to get rid of that amendment. Either we vote against it and just deal with Senator Dalphond's motion, which deals only with senators, because it's become a little bit crazy now that we're talking about....
Mr. Thériault's amendment was about the House, and Senator Dalphond's motion was about the Senate time. I think the Senate should decide what it wants to do and the House should decide what it wants to do. We have Mr. Thériault's amendment on the table, and I don't know if we want to vote it in or vote it out, because Mr. Virani made a very clear sense of what he was reading.
Madam Chair, I would just like us to take a moment to clarify things.
The proposal read by Mr. Virani is the same as mine. When Senator Dalphond first stated his proposal, the issue of equal speaking time for senators was not clear. I understand very well that senators can decide to divide their time equally. However, was it strictly for the second round? In my proposal and the one that Mr. Virani read, it's in the second round that speaking times vary.
So, is he suggesting that it should be three minutes for each senator both for the first and second rounds? I would like a clarification before we proceed to the vote.
The allocation of time to senators would be equal in the first round. The same rule would apply in the second round: I believe it is a total of nine and a half minutes for the senators, which is about two minutes each.
May I make one point of clarification before you do that, Mr. Virani?
In the Senate, the chair can ask a question. That's why, when I agreed with my colleagues, there are times when if I'm chairing that panel, I may have an opportunity to make an intervention, maybe towards the end depending on time, but I guess it's important not to forgo the time allotted for a Conservative senator. In the Senate, the chair does take the opportunity, if there is time over the course of a meeting, to ask a question, but that may not be the same in the House. If the senators among us can allot equal time within the group, then it can work quite easily, because that's how things work in the Senate. That is why Senator Dalphond proposes this, because this is what we do in the Senate.
I would simply ask how we address the issue of the Conservative senator being able to ask questions of committee members. I agree this is difficult, and a good point was raised by Mr. Moore. However, it's problematic. I think you would flag, Madam Joint Chair, that it would be problematic for us to allow MPs to step into the place of senators, because there is no possibility for that to occur on a party basis, except for one, as no other party has senators except for the Conservative Party of Canada. There are no Bloc senators, no NDP senators and no Liberal senators, so an inequality would be created right at the outset.
Obviously, the senators among this group have a better understanding of how things run in the Senate than how they run in the House. In the House, Mr. Maloney and Madam Fry are chairs of committees, and there might be others, and we know that things happen on an ad hoc basis. However, it's usually just ad hoc that the chair asks questions.
How do we sort this out going forward? If this becomes regular, it may be something we need to sort out in advance. I don't think anyone would object to doing it on an ad hoc basis, but if it's a regular occurrence, perhaps it might compromise some of the equality in the rules that were pre-established.
I think Senator Martin was suggesting that she talk about this with her Senate colleagues, and maybe the Senate can work with the House whip to see how the two groups can come to some kind of agreement on what happens here. It is a difficult situation because of the unequal number and because, as you pointed out, Mr. Virani, there are no traditional political parties in the Senate in the same way there are in the House. The House goes by its own rules.
The point is that we, as a joint committee, will have to go with committee rules as established.
I would like to ask the clerk to bail us out over this, because it's a bit of a difficult problem. I understand that the House works according to certain rules, but when the whips discussed this—the Senate whip and the House whip—they had a clear sense of what they wanted to do. Now we have this conundrum that was brought up, and it is a conundrum all right, so it's reasonable for us to discuss it.
Can the whip tell us where we go from here? I don't think any of us had discussed any of this, and I'm just going with what the two whips had originally agreed on.
I might have a suggestion on behalf of the joint clerks.
How about you continue the discussion off-line and we leave this routine motion on the side for the time being? Maybe by the next meeting you will have reached a deal among each other to tackle that conundrum. Then you can pass the motion at the next meeting as fully baked, a motion that would be agreeable to everyone. It's just a suggestion. I don't know.
Thank you, Clerk. It's a very reasonable suggestion. That's why you're the clerk. You've come up with a way to deal with this, and I think perhaps this is the way we should go. We should possibly leave this to discuss at the next meeting and let the whips of both Houses and the senators discuss among themselves how we deal with this conundrum.
Is there a sense that we can all move on now and leave this for the next meeting?
The only thing I should add is that the conundrum was created by the government. We are the official opposition and we've always been part of the party, but in the Senate, the Senate groups have all worked out their relationship. What I said was that if this motion is adopted as amended by Senator Dalphond, the senators will work out the time allocation. I am the only Conservative, and given my position on this issue, I'm also representing the other side. Everyone else for the most part has been in agreement, so I think it is important that I retain that time.
In the Senate, chairs are allowed to intervene, and we have done that on multiple occasions. If there's a respect of both Houses and we retain that practice on a committee, I feel we can adopt this motion as amended by Senator Dalphond and work out the time allocation and questioning for the senators.
We can take this off-line, as suggested by the clerk, and work out some of those details. However, I do see several hands, so I think we should take—
I think Senator Martin has said it. I think we agreed in advance that we would give Senator Martin a voice, because she does represent the Conservative Party and she represents a view that is primarily different from those of the others, and we have all agreed that she will be allowed to ask questions and she will be judicious about that. You are chairing on alternate weeks, so she would still have an opportunity on those weeks. We can agree to that.
The other issue we can deal with is that the Canadian Senators Group and the Progressive Senate Group have been silenced for one meeting. We've been told we can speak only at alternate meetings as well if we adopt this motion, and I don't think that is what we as senators agreed to.
I don't know about accepting this language as it is and then.... Maybe we should just put that off so we can fix the language all around. However, just so everybody knows, the five senators represented here today will ensure that Senator Martin has a voice.
Thank you. If I am, then I agree that the senators should be able to work out their time, but I don't think that doing that should necessarily delay our passing this motion. It could be with that caveat or however we want to do it, but because we agree on the rest of it, it could be with the caveat that this portion needs a little bit more work from the senators and that they will bring that portion back to us. However, we can agree to their overall time allotment and we can agree to the rest, I think, assuming we are in agreement.
Yes, that's assuming we are in agreement. Again, the suggestion would be, if I remember what everyone was saying, the witnesses would get seven minutes to present, and after that the questioning by House members would be as Mr. Virani read out. Then the senators will talk among themselves but they agree that their time allocation in total will be the same and they will just decide how they will move that forward and bring it back to us at another meeting.
In the meantime, we could pass motion number six as it stands.
Do I have a mover for motion seven? This is the following motion:
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; and that witnesses be advised accordingly.
The Joint Chair (Hon. Hedy Fry): This is a standard motion for House committees. In June 2015, there was a decision to no longer allow committees to order working meals, but working meals are still permitted, with coffee and snacks, and the cost is absorbed by the Senate committees directorate, as I understand.
If this motion is adopted, the Senate's share of the snacks and beverages cost—70% House of Commons, 30% Senate—would also be absorbed by the Senate committees directorate, just so you know what you just voted for.
I have a question. It's not mentioned, but I assume it's for committee meetings on Parliament Hill, and it does not concern members of Parliament and senators who take part in these meetings virtually. I assume that is what the motion means. Otherwise, I would be happy to have anything delivered to my house.
That, if requested, reasonable travel, accommodation and living expenses including child care and/or personal attendant care or the cost of an approved headset be reimbursed to witnesses upon application, not exceeding two representatives per organization; and that, in exceptional circumstances, payment for more representatives be made at the discretion of the joint chairs.
That, unless otherwise ordered, each committee member be allowed to be accompanied by one staff person at an in camera meetings and that one additional person from each House officer’s office be allowed to be present and for the Senate, that the leader or facilitator of the Government and each recognized party or parliamentary group be entitled to one additional staff member at these meetings.
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, provided that (a) the notice be filed with the joint clerks of the committee no later than 4:00 p.m. [eastern standard time] from Monday to Friday; that (b) the motion be distributed to members in both official languages by the joint clerks on the same day the said notice was transmitted if it was received no later than the deadline hour; and, that (c) notices received after the deadline hour or on non-business days be deemed to have been received during the next business day.
That all documents submitted for Committee business that do not come from a federal department or that have not been translated by the Translation Bureau be sent for prior linguistic review by the Translation Bureau before being distributed to members.
With this motion, we are simply asking that the Translation Bureau revise the documents to ensure that they are flawless.
As for the second motion, it concerns a practice that is already being done, but I think it would be important to adopt it as a routine motion. I will read it:
That the clerk inform each witness who is to appear before the Committee that the House Administration support team must conduct technical tests to check the connectivity and the equipment used to ensure the best possible sound quality; and that the Chair advises the Committee, at the start of each meeting, of any witness who did not perform the required technical tests.
I want to add one thing. As these two motions have been passed at most House committees, they will not create any additional problems for this joint committee at all because they are already in existence.
That all documents submitted for Committee business that do not come from a federal department, members’ office or that have not been translated by the Translation Bureau be sent for prior linguistic review by the Translation Bureau before being distributed to members.
This is an amendment we've had routinely so that that part is not held up, but of course everything ultimately should be in both languages.
Would that be a friendly amendment, Mr. Thériault?
Personally, I think that our colleague's motion is not a problem. That said, having sat on several committees, I know that clerks sometimes have difficulty getting witnesses to appear. Often, witnesses have to accept the invitation at the last minute. Sometimes, it's to fill a slot that has become available in the committee's schedule.
I love the motion; I too like to receive the documents beforehand. Would it be possible to add the words "where possible" or something like that? In that way, we would respect the meaning of the motion.
I will give a concrete example. Often witnesses who are due to appear on Thursday notify us at the last minute on Wednesday that they cannot appear before the committee. Since we want to fill that slot, we invite another person. In this case, the 48-hour deadline could not be met.
It's with this in mind that I propose to add the words "where possible" to the motion.
You can send me to the Senate any time, but no, MP Arseneault said exactly what I was going to say. We don't want to limit the flexibility we have for a short notice witness to attend, but I think he has covered it with his subamendment.
First of all, I would like to clarify that we are talking about the witnesses' speaking notes, not their briefs. There is a difference between the two. In addition to appearing, a witness may submit a written brief. I want to clarify that Mr. Kutcher's motion is about the witnesses' speaking notes.
I would like to make one other point. I'm sorry if I'm throwing a spanner in the works, but the speaking notes often come to us in only one official language. So if you want to receive the speaking notes, I will send them in the language in which they were written. I just want to make sure that the committee members understand that. We would not want this to hinder the work of the committee or to cause, so to speak, a rebellion in the committee if a member receives speaking notes in one language only.
I will wait for your clarification on this, Madam Chair.
My apologies. It was with regard to the speaking notes. My error on that, but you are absolutely correct. I was hoping we'd get the speaking notes in both official languages, frankly, whenever possible.
In the third to last motion that was read out, it was about access to in camera meetings. I want a clarification. When it says that one additional person from each House officer's office be allowed to be present, that would imply the whip and the House leader's office.
I want to make sure that was clear, because there had been some confusion on our part as Liberals whether that was the intention.
Perhaps it's just a matter of interpretation. Maybe the clerk could weigh in, but when it says “one additional staff person at such meetings”, does that mean the whip is one of the House officers and the House leader is one of the House officers?
I would have thought that the answer to that is yes.
I don't know to the degree this has been discussed with members of the House, but I think we have agreement among Senate members that because time is so short, would we be prepared to consider meeting every Monday in the month of June, rather than every other Monday?
That was my understanding of what we were attempting to do. I'm hoping I'm wrong, so I'm just seeking clarification there, before I move any—
I'm sorry, Madam Chair, the sound coming from Senator Wallin was very choppy. I don't know if other members are experiencing the same.
The time allowed for the committee to meet is on Mondays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., based on the scarce resources we have for holding meetings, allowing Senate committees and House of Commons standing committees to meet. However, it's up to the committee to decide if it wants to meet every sitting week, or every two weeks, or once a month. The decision is entirely yours, but always on Mondays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Can you hear me now, Mr. Clerk? Can you hear me any better?
My question was this: Because our time is short on the issue before summer recess or prorogation—who knows what may happen—would we be able to meet every Monday going forward until the end of June or until the House rises? It sounds to me that we could. It sounds like you're saying that Mondays have been set aside.
I agree to sitting every Monday until the House recesses, but one of those Mondays is May 24, which is the long weekend, and I would say that we should not sit on Victoria Day. However, except for that statutory holiday, I agree that we should meet each Monday until the House rises for the summer.
We had some good discussion, which gives us some food for thought in terms of how we will go forward and work together on this. I know that my co-chair, Hedy Fry, and I have already been having discussions, and I'm sure that we will have other discussions. My Senate colleagues and I have done the same.
I'm also told that, with regard to the motion that we did spend a fair bit of time on today, there is some wording we can bring to the next meeting. Shaila Anwar of the Senate has suggested some wording already, so we will make sure we do that.
Thank you to everyone for today's very productive meeting.