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EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Tuesday, September 24, 1996

.1533

[English]

The Clerk of the Committee: I'll begin. Pursuant to Standing Order 106(1), this meeting was called for the election of a chairman.

[Translation]

Pursuant to Standing Order 106(1), the purpose of this meeting is to elect a committee chairman. I'm ready to receive motions to that effect.

[English]

I will now receive motions for the election of a chairman.

Mr. Rocheleau.

[Translation]

Mr. Rocheleau (Trois-Rivières): I move that Mr. Michel Guimond be chairman.

[English]

The Clerk: Is the committee ready for the question?

[Translation]

Mr. Rocheleau moves that Mr. Michel Guimond be elected chairman of this committee. All those in favour of the motion please raise your hand.

[English]

Mr. Williams (St. Albert): Could we have a recorded vote?

The Clerk: We can, yes. The recorded vote is on a motion from Mr. Rocheleau thatMr. Guimond be elected chair of this committee. Are you ready for the question?

.1535

Motion agreed to: yeas, 10; nays, 2

[Translation]

The Clerk: I call upon Mr. Guimond to take the chair of this committee as chairman.

The Chairman: I would like to thank my colleagues from all parties for their trust. I will attempt to carry my duties to the best of my abilities by giving all my colleagues, who represent foremost the public, the opportunity to express themselves in a democratic fashion so that, as I said the first time, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts be able to ensure that the money of taxpayers, who, in passing, are tired of paying, is well spent. Once again thank you for your cooperation.

[English]

I recognize Mr. Crawford.

Mr. Crawford (Kent): For first vice-chairman I would like to nominate Len Hopkins.

Mr. Grose (Oshawa): I will second that motion if it needs a seconder. Then I would propose Mr. Denis Paradis as the second vice-chair.

Mr. Williams: Excuse me, Mr. Chairman. Are we going to vote on the first motion?

An hon. member: Do you want a recorded vote?

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. Crawford moves that Mr. Leonard Hopkins be elected vice-chairman of this committee.

All those in favour of the motion please raise your hand.

Motion carried unanimously

The Chairman: I will now receive motions for the position of second vice-chairman.

[English]

Mr. Silye (Calgary Centre): I move that Sue Barnes be second vice-chair.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. Silye moves that Ms Sue Barnes be elected vice-chair. Are there any other motions?

Ms Barnes?

Ms Barnes (London West): I cannot accept. Thank you anyway.

The Chairman: Ms Sue Barnes refuses. Are there other motions for the position of second vice-chairman?

[English]

Mr. Grose.

Mr. Grose: I would propose the name of Mr. Denis Paradis for second vice-chairman.

The Chairman: It's moved by Mr. Grose that Mr. Denis Paradis be elected vice-chair of the committee.

Mr. Williams: Mr. Chairman, can we debate that motion, please?

The Chairman: Yes, this motion is debatable.

Mr. Williams: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Last week at the steering committee of the public accounts committee, you represented the Bloc Québécois, I represented the Reform Party andMr. Denis Paradis represented, I thought, the Liberal Party. He was the vice-chairman of this committee at that time and now he's being nominated as a vice-chairman once more.

.1540

As you will recall, Mr. Chairman, we had a lengthy discussion on the agenda for this particular committee. We were unable to agree on the agenda even though I said I felt I could bind my Reform colleague and that he would agree with me if I agreed with the agenda as a member of the steering committee. And you said the same thing for the Bloc. Mr. Paradis, however, said he was unable to speak on behalf of his Liberal colleagues. Since he was unable to speak on behalf of his Liberal colleagues, he said he did not necessarily enjoy their confidence. I'm trying to wonder,Mr. Chairman -

The Chairman: Excuse me, Mr. Williams, I don't want to interrupt you,

[Translation]

but I believe the steering committee's meetings are held in camera and I must ask you to respect the confidentiality of in camera meetings, as far as that is possible. If you would like to raise that issue, perhaps you should do so when Mr. Paradis or a colleague would be able to comment. However I would ask you to refrain from commenting on words that were spoken during an in camera meeting.

[English]

Mr. Williams: Before we vote on this motion before us, Mr. Chairman, it is important that we have an indication from the Liberal members opposite - those present here this afternoon - that they express their confidence in the nominee for second vice-chairman in order that we, the members of the steering committee, may feel confident that they can each speak for their respective parties.

The Chairman: Mrs. Barnes.

Mrs. Barnes: I think an effective way to express a vote of confidence in the vice-chair is by casting our votes, and if we cast our votes in favour of

[Translation]

Mr. Paradis will have the trust of the Liberal caucus.

[English]

The Chairman: I recognize Mr. Hopkins.

Mr. Hopkins (Renfrew - Nipissing - Pembroke): Yes, I was just going to question why there was a steering committee meeting last week. The committees had not formally been set up. What's the ruling on that?

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. Hopkins, as you know I have great respect for seniority. I was probably still on the bottle or on my mother's breast when you were elected for the first time. We can hear the laughs anyway. I'm not saying that to criticize the excellent work of our interpreters.

I'd like to say that the previous committee, that I chaired, existed until a new chairman was elected. We discussed this within the steering committee and we were even lucky enough to have with us a well-known legal expert, Mr. Paradis, who was president of the Quebec Bar. He is a legal expert who is well known amongst his peers and we concluded that there was no legal vacuum.

Last week and, technically, until 15 minutes ago, the previous committee still existed. It was because of that that there was a meeting of the steering committee last week. The new steering committee will soon meet.

Perhaps the Liberal Party whip has another viewpoint. I hope that he will not use this to expel me from the chair of this committee as he did with Patrick Gagnon, but anyway...

[English]

Mr. Williams.

Mr. Williams: Thank you.

I appreciate the point that Mrs. Barnes has raised. If they vote for their nominee on the committee, that would presume to be a vote of confidence, but that was not the situation last week, and they had voted at the previous election for Mr. Paradis to be the vice-chair. The precedent has therefore been set that the nominee does not feel he can speak on behalf of his colleagues, even though they have voted for him to be the vice-chair.

This is the concern I have, Mr. Chairman: that the proper management of this committee is in serious jeopardy, because when the steering committee meets, it's unable to make decisions and recommendations to the full committee, because the members of the steering committee felt unable to speak on behalf of their colleagues.

.1545

I would like this committee to start being a little bit more productive than it has been over the last number of months, but with this type of impasse on the steering committee, I don't know how we're going to achieve that. I would like to know clearly, before we have a vote for Mr. Paradis as a second vice-president, whether or not the nominees for first and second vice-chairs of the public accounts committee enjoy the confidence of the parties that they represent.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. de Savoye.

Mr. de Savoye (Portneuf): Mr. Williams, you mentioned something that surprises and concerns me. You said that our Liberal colleagues voted for Mr. Paradis as vice-chair and that they had shown their trust in him by making him their spokesperson. Are you telling me that because I voted for Mr. Hopkins, he is my spokesperson? I'm not sure that my trust would go that far, in terms of how he would represent statements that I may make. However, as vice-chair of this committee, Mr. Hopkins has my trust.

[English]

There's a difference between being a vice-chair for a committee and being a spokesperson for a given party. Otherwise, you would be in trouble.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. Paradis.

Mr. Paradis (Brome-Missisquoi): I have a point of order, Mr. Chairman. First, I would like to say to our colleague, Mr. Williams, that if we go by the speech he has just made to obtain our trust in him, we should perhaps ask that Reform Party members do not sit on the steering committee because as you will recall, at the last meeting, it was Mr. Williams who, by leaving the committee, prevented the committee from functioning because there was no longer a quorum.

Second, it should be understood that the steering committee is a subcommittee that puts proposals to the full committee. It is always the full committee that makes the final decisions.

[English]

Mr. Williams: Mr. Chairman, again we're into a lot of misstatements and half-truths and so on. We just had Mrs. Barnes say quite explicitly that a vote for the nominee was obviously a vote of confidence in him, that the Liberals felt the nominee could speak on their behalf. My colleagueMr. de Savoye said no, that's not the case, and that he wouldn't want it to be that way. And now we have Mr. Paradis saying that because I left the meeting, I shouldn't sit in on the meeting. But let's remember that the steering committee was unable to come to any decision because Mr. Paradis didn't feel he could speak on behalf of his Liberal colleagues. I wondered why I was there. We couldn't even come up with recommendations because Mr. Paradis couldn't speak on behalf of his colleagues.

I would like to see the public accounts committee be a bit more productive than it has been. On that basis, I would like the steering committee to be effective. I would like the steering committee to be able to feel it can come here with recommendations that have a very high degree of likelihood of being accepted without a great deal of debate. Yet Mr. Paradis insisted that we set this entire meeting aside - all two hours of it - to discuss the agenda that we were discussing in the steering committee, rather than having us present our report, our recommendations.

I speak for Reform. You speak on behalf of the Bloc. Mr. Paradis, I thought, was going to speak on behalf of the Liberal party. We arrive at a consensus decision. We make our recommendations back to the full committee. It's a done deal, and now we're back to business. But Mr. Paradis insisted that we set aside two full hours of the full committee to discuss the agenda. He couldn't speak on behalf of his members on trying to reach a consensus on the agenda. That concerns me a great deal, Mr. Chairman, and that's why I'd like to know clearly and definitively, before we have the vote, where the Liberal Party sees their nominees for the chairs, and whether or not they can speak on behalf of the entire group at the steering committees.

.1550

[Translation]

The Chairman: I cannot speak for the Liberal Party. Regardless, Mr. Williams, I will ask our clerk to provide us with information on the rules and the reasons for having a steering committee, before the steering committee's next meeting. We will work with that. However, having this debate before we elect... There will be a steering committee meeting, and, according to procedure, there will be two vice-chairmen chosen amongst members of the majority party.

Mr. Williams.

[English]

Mr. Williams: If we vote, Mr. Chairman, and then ask the clerk about the rules, surely we are putting the cart before the horse. We may vote somebody in and then find out the rules....

I don't think it's a rules situation. What we're talking about here is someone who feels he can speak on behalf of his own colleagues. There is no rule saying that what I say binds my colleague from Calgary Centre, Mr. Silye, but I feel that I enjoy his confidence enough that I can speak on his behalf. I'm sure that at the steering committee you are the same.

Perhaps the Liberal colleagues on the committee would wish to reconsider the nomination and suggest someone else whom they feel can speak on behalf of the Liberal colleagues.

The Chairman: Mr. Crawford.

Mr. Crawford: Mr. Chairman, I want to make a motion, but before I make the motion I'll have to speak on it because I can't speak after I make it.

I feel we should vote on Mr. Paradis to show our support for him. Then you as chairman can adjourn this meeting so that the steering committee can discuss the agenda for us, showing that we have faith in him to do this.

Now I move the motion.

The Chairman: Mrs. Bethel.

Ms Bethel (Edmonton East): Mr. Chairman, it's my understanding that there's a motion before us to elect our vice-chair. I would like to speak in favour of that motion.

I think Mr. Paradis can very fairly represent my views on the steering committee. As a member of this committee, I think he can very fairly represent the views I would have. I would expect and hope the function of the steering committee would be simply to organize and arrange and put an agenda forward. But there may be times when they don't reach consensus and they may prefer to come without a recommendation to be dealt with in the committee as a whole.

So I am speaking in support, and I understand that Mr. Williams is speaking to non-support. I hope we will get on with the motion that's before us.

The Chairman: Mr. Williams, I just want to make this comment.

[Translation]

Rule 789 of Beauchesne tells us the following regarding the mandate and make up of a subcommittee on agenda and procedure:

[English]

It recommends by way of a report how the committee should proceed to study its order of reference. It recommends,

[Translation]

This means then that we meet, we reach a consensus amongst ourselves and then we submit our subcommittee's report to the full committee for its approval. That is what a steering committee does. It is a committee that has the power to make recommendations.

[English]

Mr. Williams: You may recall, Mr. Chairman, that there was reasonable consensus in the steering committee, with one exception: the agenda for this meeting. I wanted it to carry on with the first item of business that we all agreed upon, but Mr. Paradis said no, that we would set this meeting aside for two full hours to discuss the agenda that we were discussing in the steering committee and hadn't reached a consensus on. To me that is absolutely nonsensical, that we reach a consensus on the agenda in the steering committee and then say we will set aside two hours of the full committee to discuss the agenda.

.1555

I scratched my head and wondered what was going on, and it turns out that Mr. Paradis says he doesn't feel that he can speak on behalf of his Liberal colleagues; therefore, we should not discuss the item in the steering committee but set aside a full meeting of the public accounts committee to discuss something that is normally settled and agreed upon. And we did have agreement in the steering committee.

The Chairman: Mr. Rocheleau.

[Translation]

Mr. Rocheleau: Mr. Chairman, I think that the debate has going on long enough and I would call for a vote.

The Chairman: We have before us a motion. Mr. Grose moves that Mr. Denis Paradis be elected vice-chairman of this committee.

Motion agreed to

Mr. de Savoye: I would like to put on the agenda the tabling of a motion regarding the Auditor General's Report. The Committee will recall that last June we raised this issue.

The Chairman: So that we all understand, is this regarding the Auditor's General's Report of Thursday the 26th of September or is this another report?

Mr. de Savoye: It is the one that deals with the issue of family trusts.

The Chairman: The reports dated the 7th of May 1966.

Mr. de Savoye: This Committee had already indicated that it would examine this. I have with me, in both official languages, copies of the motion and I would ask the Clerk to distribute them because it will probably take less time for everyone to read them than for me to read it.

[English]

An hon. member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.

[Translation]

Mr. de Savoye: Is the motion seconded?

The Chairman: Yes.

[English]

On a point of order, Mrs. Barnes.

Mrs. Barnes: My point of order

[Translation]

regarding the first annual meeting, where we have the opportunity

[English]

to fix the rules, and I don't believe we've done that yet for this committee. We've moved ahead and we haven't even done the normal rule setting for establishing a committee. I can understand that people are eager to get on, but we usually have some rules. I think the next order of business should be to do the rules for how this committee will function. Then after that there should be steering and whatever.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Ms Barnes, I will try to find you the number of the Standing Order.

This is not a new session of Parliament, but rather the same session. When we started up again on the 16th of September, it was as if we had adjourn the previous Friday. Normally, those things are adopted at a new session. Therefore we did not have to do that. That is why it is not on the agenda.

Mr. Paradis.

Mr. Paradis: Point of order. If I look at the agenda we received for today's meeting, item 1 is election of chair, your election, Mr. Chairman; item 2 is election of two vice-chairs; item 3, other business, is schedule of meetings and briefings; and the fourth item is adjournment to the call of the chair.

Mr. Chairman, I was under the impression that this was the agenda for today's meeting and I don't see how you could bring up new topics.

Mr. de Savoye: Mr. Chairman, that is not a point of order, but a matter for debate. I am ready to respond to the question asked by my honourable colleague, the vice-chairman, whom I supported.

Mr. Chairman, I was going to explain that. It said here: ``other business'', ``autres travaux'', ``schedule of meetings''. We meet to discuss issues. Well, let's decide which issues we will discuss. This is a first. You can't have one without the other. You cannot have an empty agenda.

[English]

The Chairman: Mr. Silye.

.1600

Mr. Silye: Mr. Chair, I thought the procedure, now that you've elected the officers, was for the officers to strike up a steering committee. In fact, the rules have already been set for that. So I now think the steering committee should go away, have their meeting, and come back to us to tell us what the agendas will be and what we'll discuss. If family trusts are the number one item the next time we come back, so be it. It'll be on the agenda then, but not today.

[Translation]

Mr. de Savoye: Mr. Chairman, as you said, the steering committee can make recommendations. We have decision making powers. I therefore tabled a motion. It was seconded, and we should certainly discuss its soundness, because in any case, when we get the recommendation, we will have to determine its soundness.

Moreover, under item 3 on the agenda, ``other business''... I am following the agenda, contrary to what my colleagues, Mr. Silye, said.

The Chairman: Perhaps we should look at the thrust of your motion. I think it could be discussed immediately after we determine what the steering committee tried to set up last week. That is what we had agreed to, Mr. Paradis.

Mr. Paradis: Mr. Chairman, if you recall, the steering committee did not agree to anything whatsoever, because we had never agreed on anything in the past. When Mr. Williams left, we've lost our quorum. If I recall, you said, at the time, that the meeting was adjourned, without there being any type of decision or recommendation.

The Chairman: Mr. Silye.

[English]

Mr. Silye: Well, Mr. Chairman, I have no objections to discussing family trusts and reviewing this even further, or even more, I guess, even though the report from the Standing Committee on Finance is out and has been delivered. It was even talked about as a motion in the House as recently as yesterday.

I take exception to the word ``scandal''. I don't see anything here that can prove a scandal. I want the steering committee to recommend to us whether or not it's under that basis - a scandal - that we should review this. That's what I think the job of the steering committee is, not the committee as a whole.

So I move that the recommendation as to whether or not to put this on the agenda be done by the steering committee and discussed at that level. When the recommendation comes back to us, we can then discuss it at that time.

I just feel that this word right off the bat -

The Chairman: Mr. Silye, we are not discussing this proposition.

Mr. Silye: Yes, but he wants us to debate this, right?

The Chairman: Yes, we try to discuss the scheduling of meetings beforehand. I said toMr. de Savoye that we will try to have a schedule of meetings before discussing his motion. I said that.

Mr. Hopkins.

Mr. Hopkins: Well, Mr. Chairman, what this motion indicates is that we're going to start setting the agenda of this committee in the committee as a whole. You have a steering committee - you've just elected one - to do that very business. I think the steering committee should get on with it, as Mr. Silye says, draw up an agenda, bring it back and present it to this committee. Then the committee can decide what they want to do with the recommendations of the steering committee.

But we should not be expected to come in here today and start setting the agenda of this committee in the whole committee.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. Rocheleau.

Mr. Rocheleau: I do not understand the position taken by our colleague from Brome-Missisquoi, Mr. Paradis, who was a member of the committee last spring. You may recall that the government wasn't sure whether the Standing Committee on Public Accounts or the Standing Committee on Finance should be studying the Auditor General's comments. At the time, the government opted for the Standing Committee on Finance. In fact, we had that discussion here.

We agreed on a resolution, passed on June 5th, which stipulated that the Committee should meet to study family thrusts at its first meeting in the fall of 1996. regardless of the procedure followed since September 16th, in keeping with the spirit of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, we were to have a plenary meeting as soon as possible to review family thrusts.

.1605

The Standing Committee on Finance, as we know, did its work, especially the government side, and the ball is now in our court. I respectfully submit to you that we should use this motion to start our work and meet as soon as possible to deal with family thrusts.

[English]

The Chairman: Mr. Hubbard.

Mr. Hubbard (Miramichi): Mr. Chairman, we have an order of business, and you as chairman have accepted a motion here from our honourable colleagues as chair. Have you? Has that been accepted?

The Chairman: No.

Mr. Hubbard: It's not been accepted?

The Chairman: No.

Mr. Hubbard: So really we're debating something that has not been accepted by the chair.

The Chairman: Yes.

Mr. Hubbard: I think we're wasting a lot of good time that we could spend to get this thing going. Your order of business is scheduling meetings and briefings. I think that's the order of business. I don't want to challenge the chair, but I think, Mr. Chairman, you have to rule on whether or not the motion by Mr. de Savoye is accepted or not. If it's not, then it's not debatable.

[Translation]

The Chairman: At this point on the agenda, Mr. de Savoye's motion is out of order. I do not accept it for discussion at this time. I would like our committee to discuss the schedule of meetings and briefings. I would like to discuss that immediately. Afterwards, once it has been settled, we can discuss the various motions.

Mr. de Savoye.

Mr. de Savoye: Mr. Chairman, am I to understand that you are going to deal with the motion immediately after the Committee settles the issue of schedule of meetings, which you have in front of you, or did you say something else?

The Chairman: The answer is yes. As soon as the Committee has finished dealing with item 3, other business, we will deal with the other motions. You have one and other colleagues may have some as well.

[English]

The Chairman: Mrs. Barnes.

Mrs. Barnes: I believe it would be quite correct now, since we have a full complement for the steering committee, for the steering committee to meet.

I would point out that, at least on the government side, one of our members changed. One went to another committee, and there weren't two people existing as vice-chairs last week. There are now two government vice-chairs.

I would suggest, so we don't go around in circles for the next little while again and again and again, that you take this opportunity, Mr. Chair, to get your steering committee together so they can start figuring out what they're going to recommend to this body.

I notice that you have sent out notice of an in camera meeting for us on Thursday regarding the Auditor General's new report. I have no objection to giving that my agreement at this point in time.

But I think there is a function of a steering committee. It's not for something you'll use this time if it's convenient, then you don't bother with it the next time. There were bona fide reasons last week why we didn't have our two vice-chairs. We had to elect a new vice-chair. If you can't understand that, I don't know how we're ever going to get through any business this year.

Mr. Chair, to be cooperative, I would suggest that it would be in order.... We know that the Auditor General's report will come out this Thursday. We know there's a function to receive those reports. We know this would be appropriate to go to the -

Mr. de Savoye: I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

Mrs. Barnes: [Inaudible - Editor] ...we do that and we can give approval. But if not, have your steering committee, and bring it back to us so we can go to that meeting.

[Translation]

Mr. de Savoye: I understand you made your decision and I respect it. I disagree withMs Barnes, but I will not voice my objections because I respect your decision. I therefore expect us to stick to the agenda. I would like my colleagues to do so as well. We will resume the discussion afterwards.

.1610

The Chairman: Before giving the floor to Ms Bethel, I would like to point out, for the benefit of all committee members, that if we refer the matter back to the steering committee, we will have trouble maintaining quorum because some committee members might leave. We are just enforcing a resolution this committee passed on June 28th which stipulated the following:

On a motion moved by Mr. John Williams, it is agreed, - That the Chairman and Clerk of the Committee prepare a schedule of hearings for the Fall of 1996, stipulating the dates and times for discussing matters approved by the Committee, including Chapter 1, as well as time for discussing draft reports.

It's all fine to refer its back to the steering committee, but they will just argue about it and send it back to this committee. That will just postpone things indefinitely.

I would suggest to colleagues that we finally discuss the draft schedule of briefings, which our committee had already decided on June 28th. If the resolutions we passed are meaningless...

Ms Bethel.

[English]

Ms Bethel: Mr. Chair, I'm having a little difficulty understanding exactly what motion is before us right now. What motion are we debating? Is there one?

The Chairman: We are just discussing the need to discuss the future business of this committee. We don't discuss the motion of Mr. de Savoye at this time.

Ms Bethel: Okay, so that motion has not been accepted.

The Chairman: No.

Ms Bethel: Mr. Chairman, I accept your ruling. The motion that we will be entertaining soon will be on this schedule.

The Chairman: Yes.

Ms Bethel: Well, it looks fine to me.

The Chairman: Great.

Mr. Williams: Mr. Chairman, I move that the public accounts committee adopt the schedule of meetings and witnesses as proposed in this draft schedule presented to the committee.

[Translation]

The Chairman: There must be a seconder.

[English]

Mr. Williams moves that the schedule be adopted as presented. We don't need a seconder.

Mr. Silye: I have some questions about the item on the agenda for tomorrow afternoon called ``family trusts''. The witnesses who are to be before us tomorrow are research staff. Whose research staff will be here? Is it just this committee's?

The Chairman: Plus maybe somebody from the Auditor General.

Mr. Silye: Are we accurately identifying this topic as family trusts, or is this non-resident assets? In my mind there's some confusion as to what exactly we're talking about. I want to know what topic we're talking about here.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Perhaps that is our committee's jargon. We called them family trusts. No doubt your visits to our committee...

[English]

Mr. Silye: So it's not just family trusts. It's the movement of assets, non-resident and residency rulings, etc. It's a much bigger topic.

The Chairman: Everybody here except maybe you, excuse me, understands that this is the subject.

Mr. Hopkins.

Mr. Hopkins: I'd like some clarity on this. Mr. Williams started talking about the steering committee meeting. Now that we've discussed half of what the steering committee did behind the scenes, maybe we should hear it all for the sake of clarity. Was this actually passed at the steering committee meeting and was there a quorum when it was passed?

The Chairman: No.

Mr. Hopkins: If not, then why is it appearing before us now?

The Chairman: Mr. Hopkins, we have a problem. We tried to have a steering committee meeting and we lost our quorum. We had a problem. This is the reason we are not able to bring you a recommendation. But we want to go...because it will be easy. If we don't have a steering, we don't have an agenda and we don't have meetings of our committee. We had a problem at the steering.

.1615

Mr. Hopkins: If you didn't arrive at a decision or schedule the other day, then why don't you have a steering committee meeting and do it?

Some hon. members: Yes.

Mr. Hopkins: Then you could bring it to this committee. I personally object to -

The Chairman: I think we just have to vote again.... Mr. Williams.

Mr. Williams: In response to Mr. Hopkins' question, there was an agreement on the schedule, with one minor exception. There was no vote per se, but the discussion had reached a consensus, with one exception. There was only one exception.

That was the agenda for this meeting. If you take a look at the meeting today, it's to discuss the schedule. Everything else got pushed down one entire meeting. I said that if we all agreed and all spoke on behalf of our respective parties, the adoption of the agenda would be a two-minute or a five-minute affair and then we could get into what was proposed for the next day. At that point I found out that Mr. Paradis could not or would not speak on behalf of his Liberal colleagues. Therefore, he couldn't commit to any agenda even though there was reasonable consensus that this agenda was quite acceptable to all parties. We were stuck.

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, in answer to Mr. Hopkins' question, I felt that I couldn't stay at the meeting because there was absolutely no way Mr. Paradis had any intention of arriving at any decision.

[Translation]

Mr. Paradis: Mr. Williams is talking about a consensus. Mr. Williams, there was never any consensus at that meeting. That is why you left. Don't come and tell us there was a consensus.

[English]

An hon. member: Why don't you say that a little louder?

Mr. Hopkins: I'm even more confused now. Mr. Williams says there was a consensus and you tell me this was not adopted by the steering committee. I gather that if it wasn't adopted by the steering committee, then there was not a consensus. But here it is circulated around this table.

We might smile about this, but we're wasting time here. I'm not prepared to see the public accounts committee waste its time. Of course, that's not mine, that's for everybody. If you want to waste time, you go ahead and waste time, but I don't intend to waste my life.

If this is not a consensus or a decision by the steering committee, then why is it circulated and why are we discussing it now? Why don't we have a steering committee and come back with a report to this committee as Mr. Silye suggested 20 minutes ago?

[Translation]

The Chairman: I would like to remind you, Mr. Hopkins, that what you see is consistent with a resolution passed by this committee on June 28th, 1996.

In your experience, Mr. Hopkins, if the steering committee had never reached a consensus, what should we do? If every decision made by the steering committee is a tie.

[English]

Mrs. Barnes: It comes out here after the meeting.

The Chairman: This is what we are doing right now. Thank you, Mrs. Barnes. You answered my question. There is no consensus and this is the reason we bring it to the full committee right now. Thank you; you gave me my answer.

Mrs. Barnes: And we now have two vice-chairs to go to the steering committee. So you can have your meeting right now, and then if you don't reach a consensus you can bring it back to us. But you cannot skip the steering committee.

The Chairman: It's not my problem if Mr. Silye was absent from the steering committee. It was not my problem. I called a steering committee. We had a quorum of three people and we had the meeting.

Mr. de Savoye, and then we will vote.

[Translation]

Mr. de Savoye: I am surprised to see that some people around this table think that a lack of a decision from the steering committee or its inability to make a decision means our committee is hamstrung. This Committee has some decision-making authority. The Committee should decide now. I am asking for a vote on the motion.

The Chairman: It has already been requested.

.1620

[English]

Mr. Hubbard.

Mr. Hubbard: Is there a motion to accept this?

The Chairman: Yes, there is a motion by Mr. Williams to accept this schedule.

Mr. Hubbard: I would like to move an amendment that this schedule be referred to the steering committee for consideration. Is there a seconder?

[Translation]

Mr. de Savoye: Mr. Chairman, if Mr. Hubbard's motion is accepted, it would defer mine. I am asking for a vote on the motion. Those who prefer to send it back to the steering committee can just vote against it and the steering committee will realize it has to resume its work. Otherwise,Mr. Hubbard's motion is pointless.

The Chairman: I accept Mr. Hubbard's amendment.

[English]

Mr. Hubbard: Mr. Chairman, I don't think we should simply defeat this proposal in terms of the scheduled meetings. Rather, it should be referred to the steering committee, which could report back to our next meeting on the schedule of meetings and briefings.

Mr. Silye: Since the members of the steering committee are here at present, I think they should get the indication that none of us is objecting to this draft schedule, that we would probably approve the draft schedule. Then at least we could save that one item for the steering committee's schedule when they do meet and not worry about the schedule because this schedule has been set. We can go on with it.

I do recall that at the last meeting, or prior to the second last meeting, we were concerned about how this whole issue of family trusts was being handled and how it was going to the Standing Committee on Finance. They were looking at the existing law and what should be done to change it. It was quite clear, as my colleague said who says he speaks for me, and I'll speak for him, that they're looking forward, which is fine. Our committee has to look back and see what was going on, and I think that's what we're trying to do.

As a member of this committee, I'd like to see this on the agenda. I would vote against the amendment by Mr. Hubbard and for the main motion to accept this draft schedule. Then we can get on with business.

The Chairman: What is your amendment, Charlie?

Mr. Hubbard: Mr. Chairman, it is that this draft schedule be sent to the steering committee for consideration.

[Translation]

Mr. Paradis: Mr. Chairman, you said the amendment was in order. Could we then vote on the amendment?

The Chairman: I'll ask the clerk to read out Mr. Hubbard's proposed amendment.

[English]

The Clerk: The motion by Mr. Williams was that the proposed schedule be adopted.Mr. Hubbard is proposing that this motion be amended to read not ``be adopted'', but ``be referred to the steering committee''. So the words ``be adopted'' are changed to ``be referred to the steering committee''. That's all; that is the amendment.

[Translation]

The Chairman: All those in favour of Mr. Hubbard's amendment will please raise their hand. May I vote?

The Clerk: No.

Amendment carried

The Chairman: Mr. Williams' main motion, as amended, will now be put to a vote.

.1625

We shall read the motion once again and then vote.

[English]

The Clerk: The motion as amended is: that the proposed schedule be referred to the steering committee.

[Translation]

Motion agreed to

Mr. de Savoye: Mr. Chairman, you said previously in your ruling that my motion would be in order at the present time. Is this still the case? I am ready to discuss it.

The Chairman: Mr. de Savoye.

Mr. de Savoye: Mr. Chairman, I tabled a motion which you ruled would be in order at the present time. The motion was distributed in both languages to the committee members and stems directly from a decision taken by the committee at the last meeting. Therefore -

The Chairman: On a point of order, Ms Bethel.

[English]

Ms Bethel: On a point of order, for some clarification, Mr. Chair, I'd like to know, perhaps through the clerk, is there not a requirement for a notice of motion?

The Chairman: No, we have plenty of motions. There's no ruling in our committee to give this advice.

Ms Bethel: There is no requirement for a notice of motion?

The Chairman: No.

A voice: Unless we pass one, which we've never done.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. de Savoye, you may continue.

Mr. de Savoye: The question of family trusts is a concern for everyone and more particularly for this committee.

In the draft schedule submitted to us the committee will be looking into this matter but we still have to decide what our focus will be, along with our terms of reference so that our action will be consistent and precise and achieve predictable results.

I am therefore proposing to the committee the terms of reference you have received and I hasten to point out to my colleagues from the Reform party and to my other colleagues that if they are scandalized by the use of the word ``scandal'' and want to have it replaced, I am open to any recommendations or suggestions they might have relating to family trusts. We won't quarrel over words, it's the result that's important.

[English]

The Chairman: Are there any comments?

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. Paradis.

Mr. Paradis: I have some difficulty with the admissibility of this motion since we've just had a majority vote in favour of submitting a fall schedule to the steering committee. I don't understand what the point of a steering committee meeting would be since we would have a very busy fall if we were to follow all the steps set out in Mr. de Savoye's motion.

I have some doubts about the admissibility of this motion at least before the committee to which we have sent our draft schedule has had a chance to look at the entire fall schedule.

The Chairman: Mr. Paradis, concerning the admissibility of this motion, I do not see any problem since you yourself were the mover. I'll ask the clerk to get me the motion to the effect that at its first meeting in the fall the Standing committee on public accounts dealt with the matter of family trusts. You were the one who moved it. I can draw your attention to the wording, that is why I consider this motion to be in order particularly since it states:

.1630

It defines the mandate and the means. The steering committee will have to take this into account in determining our schedule for the fall session.

It's rather likely that a meeting of more than an hour will be required to deal with the means suggested by Mr. de Savoye. I don't see any inconsistency in passing the motion. It goes along with what we already decided.

[English]

Other comments?

Before we turn to you, Mr. Silye,

[Translation]

our researcher pointed out that Ms Bethel had asked to speak before you.

[English]

Ms Bethel: Mr. Chair, I would like to see this referred to the steering committee. As I look at what's now not our schedule, there are two particularly important meetings, one Thursday and one Tuesday of the coming week, where we're going to receive the September 1996 report of the Auditor General. It's my view that when we receive this report, it will become much clearer to all of us what we should be looking into further. It would seem to me that if we consider this motion that's before us, it should be after that time. The steering committee should consider it after that time, along with the other things the Auditor General will bring to our attention on Thursday and Tuesday.

But I should say here that I guess I would be willing to consider this motion before us at that time should there be any evidence whatsoever that it's founded and grounded in fact. There has been no evidence presented to anyone of what's before us.

So my motion is to refer, and to at least complete the Thursday and Tuesday meetings before the work plan for the year is determined by the steering committee and sent forward to us as a committee for a decision.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Do I take it that you wish to amend Mr. de Savoye's proposal? I'll ask the clerk to read out the amendment.

[English]

The Clerk: What you're moving is dealing with the business of the committee, a superseding motion. The motion from Mr. de Savoye you all have before you. What you're moving is not an amendment. You're moving something calling for a way of proceeding with the business of the committee, and that supersedes the question before the committee. The committee is to see to that before it returns to the motion.

So your motion would be that the motion by Mr. de Savoye be referred to the steering committee. That's a superseding motion. My advice, if you follow it, would be that this has precedence and should be disposed of before you return to the original motion.

Ms Bethel: However, part of the referral motion is that this be dealt with after the meetings of Thursday, September 26, and Tuesday, October 1.

[Translation]

The Chairman: I'll ask the clerk to give me a copy of Mr. Paradis' motion to the effect that family trusts would be discussed at our first fall meeting. I'm anxious to see what it says.

[English]

The Chairman: Mr. Williams.

Mr. Williams: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate Ms Bethel's attempt to try to get us out of a little logjam here. The referral to the steering committee might be a good way to try to resolve the issue. I would ask that she not attach to the referral that it be at a subsequent time. The reason for this is that this whole committee passed a motion in June stating that the family trust issue, the first chapter of the May 1996 report of the Auditor General, be the first order of business of this committee in the fall. For that reason, so we don't have to upset the motions that are already passed by the full committee, would you in essence like to withhold the timing and just allow the referral?

.1635

Ms Bethel: I'll withdraw the second part of that referral this time.

[Translation]

The Chairman: To put things in their proper context, on June 5th 1996, the committee adopted the following motion:

Our first session held today deals with the election. We've attempted to come to an agreement on a schedule. If our motions are irrelevant or are meant to be a red herring... we are not at all following the resolutions we previously adopted.

[English]

Mr. Williams: Mr. Chairman, will you please call the question on the superseding motion of Ms Bethel?

[Translation]

Mr. de Savoye: Didn't I ask for the floor before Mr. Williams?

[English]

The Chairman: Excuse me,

[Translation]

Mr. de Savoye had asked to speak.

Mr. de Savoye: I understand the committee rules of procedure and I imagine that this committee follows them and that when a committee makes a decision - the committee decided a specific matter would be discussed at its first meeting - , then the committee alone can dispose of this decision.

The steering committee cannot be asked to go against the will of the committee. A recommendation can no longer be made by the steering committee. The committee decided on today's agenda through a duly adopted motion. My intervention is to be seen as part of this agenda. I have tabled a motion that was ruled in order. I have respected the rules. The question cannot simply be turned over to the steering committee. If we start playing this kind of game, where will we end up?

Let's dispose of my motion in the normal and usual manner and not try to hold up things by trickery. Do you really think that when the committee comes back with my motion, as the mover of the motion I would not pursue it? We would just pick up the discussion where it was left off today. The steering committee would not be able to make any headway. Decisions have already been taken by the committee. We have taken the first step, let's continue on the same path. That is why in spite of Ms Bethel's good intentions, I cannot go along because of the consequences of such a course.

[English]

The Chairman: Mrs. Barnes.

Mrs. Barnes: I think one of the problems on this committee - and it's something we've been doing for a year now and I don't know whether it went on before that - is this. In other committees of the House of Commons, you never get sandbagged by motions you've never seen. I haven't even had a chance to read the motion you're talking about, because you handed it out just now. In every other committee, including the justice committee, which you sat on with me, you had a 48-hour prior notice rule.

If that notice were given and people had reason to understand.... What you're getting today is partly because people haven't even had a chance to discuss what you want us to deal with, vote on, everything. It's not going to happen.

I'm saying that I agree with the motion to defer. Let's do the whole thing properly, get it back to steering, and have it come back for recommendation. Then I'm going to strongly suggest that we - I will be talking with my colleagues about getting some proper rules. The next time this whole committee meets, we'll come up with some rules so we can get notices of motion. That will solve a good part of the problem that goes on at this meeting. It wastes time and it gets frustrating.

Mr. de Savoye: Mr. Chairman, I would like to tell Mrs. Barnes that of course this committee can decide to discuss this motion tomorrow, but don't send it to the steering committee. That is past this stage. This is in front of this committee as a whole.

I agree you had it only today. I am not asking for a decision in the next five minutes; I know I won't get that. I am asking for this committee to acknowledge the motion and discuss it.

.1640

Mrs. Barnes: No. We haven't even read it, Mr. de Savoye.

Mr. de Savoye: We can discuss it tomorrow if you want to read it this evening.

Mrs. Barnes: Call the question, Mr. Chair, please.

[Translation]

The Chairman: I'd like to remind the committee members that we adopted a motion quite contrary to Ms Bethel's proposal. A number of colleagues voted for Mr. Telegdi's proposal to the effect that -

So let's have a vote. Ms Bethel's motion reads as follows:

[English]

The Clerk: The motion reads: ``That the motion of Mr. de Savoye be referred to the steering committee''.

[Translation]

Motion agreed to: Yeas 8; Nays 2

[English]

Mr. Williams: Mr. Chairman, now that we have dealt with that issue, now that we have referred the agenda to the steering committee, and now that we have referred this issue raised by my colleagues to the steering committee, this whole committee is in essence without an agenda, apart from the fact that on Thursday, September 26, the Auditor General's report will be released.

In keeping with the spirit of the motion passed by this committee in June 1996, that chapter 1 of the May report be the first item of business, I would move that tomorrow, Wednesday, September 25, we have an in camera briefing by the research staff and perhaps staff of the Auditor General to bring us back up to speed on this particular issue.

Mr. Chairman, that will allow this committee to get back onto a regular schedule of meeting on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It has been the practice of this committee that we have regular meetings twice a week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That will allow this committee to start working and give the steering committee time to discuss and report back next Tuesday to the full committee. We have to get some regularity into this committee. We have to have some order of business in this committee. That's why I feel a briefing on the matter in camera - no decisions, only to bring us back up to speed on the issue - is appropriate.

The Chairman: Mrs. Barnes.

Mrs. Barnes: I would suggest a briefing on this whole subject matter can be had by reading the report tabled in the House of Commons last week by the finance committee. I suggest that time could be usefully spent briefing yourself in that matter.

In the spirit, though, of what I said before, I have no objection...because I also want this committee to do some work this week. I take it for granted the chair will call a steering committee meeting. It could have occurred within the last hour, but it hasn't. We know an Auditor General's report is coming out on Thursday. There is an opportunity, I would think, for briefing.

I do not have a problem with our having a meeting to be briefed, and an in camera session is normal for a public accounts committee meeting when an Auditor General's report comes out. That would give us, I would think, one chunk of business to do for Thursday that we're not going to be able to do a week from Thursday. I think that would be appropriate for this committee to do.

Whatever the steering committee does and returns to this committee of the whole as a recommendation, that can also be done at the call of the chair. But I agree with Mr. Williams; in large part, I would appreciate not having to read my e-mail by the hour this year, trying to figure out if there's a meeting.

In this spirit, I believe we should also try to aim for a regular schedule, but it is the first meeting of the year. I would propose, if other people are in agreement.... I would certainly be happy to attend this Thursday meeting, if we want. If not, I think it's about time to adjourn this meeting so that the steering committee's meeting can start. Otherwise, we're going to be into votes before we're ready.

.1645

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mrs. Barnes, I'd like to settle this matter with you once and for all. I am talking about what can be done at the call of the Chair. Let's put this matter to rest immediately.

The Chair has the power to call a meeting. If you are unhappy with having a Chairman from the official opposition, then you can become a member of the official opposition and perhaps have a chance at chairing the Standing committee on public accounts. It is the only committee presided by a member of the official opposition. You or anyone else have no business telling me what to do especially when we see how the president of the Standing committee on finance behaved towards the auditor general, for whom I have a great deal of respect.

Secondly, let me remind you that there is no need for you to check your E-mail night and day, as you say. We receive notices of meetings in our offices every day and changes are made every day. If you'd like me to give a course on office organization to your staff, I'd be happy to do so. If you are poorly organized, that is not our problem. So for the rest of the meeting, why don't you just keep those remarks to yourself.

[English]

Mrs. Barnes: I have a point of order. I find that insulting, but I will pass it by. But there were occasions last year in which I know the clerk did send out notices, but unfortunately they reached some of our members after the meetings were over. That happens to be factual.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. de Savoye.

Mr. de Savoye: Mr. Chairman, to my great regret, to my great displeasure, Ms Bethel's motion was adopted. Well, so be it. What remains to be determined is when the steering committee will report to us.

Mrs. Barnes, you know that in the Standing committee on justice, we received advanced notices. But when things are taking place very quickly, then it's a different matter. In the public accounts Committee we have to be quick. Mr. Chairman, would it be too much to ask for the steering committee to report to us at the meeting that we are supposed to have tomorrow afternoon at 3:30?

The Chairman: In principle, I'd go along with the suggestion. If we're able to bring together the steering committee before...

Mr. de Savoye: I thought there was a consensus so that we could...

The Chairman: Subject to our ability to send a notice of meeting within a reasonable time. We always send out reasonable notices of meeting but there is one person who does not consider them to be reasonable.

Ms Bethel.

[English]

Ms Bethel: Mr. Chairman, I have a question again for clarification. Is it necessary for us to include, perhaps with Mr. Williams' agreement, the two meetings, Thursday and Tuesday? They haven't been passed by this committee, I guess, or have they?

So perhaps, if Mr. Williams would agree, there would be the meeting Wednesday for information. The meeting with the Auditor General would be on Thursday, and the one on Tuesday, perhaps -

Mr. Williams: That was the intent of my motion, Mr. Chairman.

Ms Bethel: Okay, that's fine.

Mr. Williams: It was that we would take the first two. Ms Bethel is suggesting the first three, but at least for the first two items on the agenda, one can say that's a decision. So we can proceed on the first two tomorrow and Thursday and let the steering committee report back with their deliberations.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. Paradis.

Mr. Paradis: In order to expedite matters, I simply wanted to suggest that tomorrow afternoon, after consultation with my colleague, the other committee vice-chairman, we give consideration to all the matters submitted to the steering committee. Without any further consultation, if you were to decide, Mr. chairman, that a meeting of the steering committee should take place tomorrow afternoon at 3:30, we would be willing to consider today's agenda, that is our fall schedule,Mr. de Savoye's motion, etc.

[English]

The Chairman: John, are you okay with the suggestion of Ms Bethel to have three?

.1650

Mr. Williams: The motion I made, Mr. Chairman, was that we would have the meeting tomorrow and Thursday. Ms Bethel suggested that we would also have the one on Tuesday, October 1. I agree with that.

The Chairman: Okay.

[Translation]

I'd like to ask the clerk to read out Ms Bethel's motion. Mr. Williams is withdrawing his motion.

[English]

I understand that you withdraw your -

Mr. Williams: I consider it an editorial change, Mr. Chairman, but if you want me to withdraw mine in favour of Ms Bethel's, that's fine, too. I will withdraw in favour of Ms Bethel's.

Ms Bethel: I just want to ask if it's necessary. Mine was not a motion; I was simply asking for a clarification by the clerk. Do we need to pass a motion for a meeting with the Auditor General?

A voice: Yes.

Ms Bethel: The meeting with the Auditor General is set for when?

The Chairman: It's set for Thursday, 11 a.m.

Ms Bethel: All right. So that's the only meeting that's been set with the Auditor General. All right.

The Chairman: But next Tuesday, we must meet the Auditor General in public -

Ms Bethel: All right.

The Chairman: - for his September 1996 report.

Ms Bethel: Okay. The only one was the Tuesday meeting. I didn't make the motion, John.

Mr. Williams: Mr. Chairman, I move that we have the meeting tomorrow, which would be an in camera briefing by the research staff with the possibility of staff from the AG's office.

I also suggested that we have the meeting on Thursday, September 26, when the Auditor General is tabling his latest report. Ms Bethel asked me if I would consider adding the Tuesday, October 1, meeting, which is the public meeting at which the Auditor General discusses his report. I agreed with that amendment or change to add that on. I would like to see these three meetings proceed.

The Chairman: This is my understanding of your proposition.

Ms Bethel: I would like to clarify that. It was my understanding that these were set meetings, but I understand that they're not. The only one that is pretty well set is the Thursday one. My understanding is that the Tuesday one has not been agreed to or discussed by the Auditor General. That's the one in public.

The Chairman: Okay. We will vote on that.

Mrs. Barnes: I have a point of order. We are now talking about the same things on the scheduling that we already defeated earlier in this meeting through a referral to the steering committee. You can't go back and vote on something through the back door that you've already defeated by the front door.

I think it's obvious to me that we need a steering committee meeting, and that you, as chair, will call it. You've been offered a time, at least by our two members, tomorrow at the scheduled times so you could have a steering committee. That's up to you, Mr. Chair, but you can't go back and vote on something again because you -

The Chairman: I agree with you, Mrs. Barnes. It's my pleasure to agree with you.

Mrs. Barnes: You made my day.

The Chairman: It's true that it was decided with the vote we had. I think we cannot go piece by piece on a cafeteria-type meal. No, no. I think it was decided.

Mr. Williams: You have a motion on the floor, Mr. Chairman.

[Translation]

Mr. Paradis: Mr. Chairman, I'd like you to declare the motion out of order.

The Chairman: I declare Mr. Williams' motion out of order. I consider that the majority vote has disposed of the matter.

[English]

Shame on me. Shame on me.

[Translation]

Mr. Paradis: Mr. Chairman, I would like to repeat that the two vice-chairmen are available for a steering committee meeting tomorrow afternoon at 3:30.

The Chairman: We could have a meeting tomorrow at noon and have lunch together.

Mr. Paradis: On that point, Mr. Chairman, I would like to present a motion for adjournment.

The Chairman: I suggest that the members of the steering committee have lunch together at noon and that the full committee meet tomorrow afternoon at 3:30.

Mr. Paradis: I don't have my timetable with me as far as noon is concerned, but for the meeting at 3:30, there is no problem.

[English]

The Chairman: We can have a lunch together at noon. We can have the full committee at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Mr. Hopkins: No, I can't have lunch tomorrow.

The Chairman: No? That's too bad.

[Translation]

Mr. Paradis: Mr. Chairman, they are available for a meeting of the steering committee.

The Chairman: The Chair will call a meeting of the steering committee immediately after this meeting and we can come to an agreement.

Mr. Paradis: I would like to move adjournment.

.1655

Motion agreed to unanimously

The Chairman: The meeting is adjourned.

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