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ENVI Committee Meeting

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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

COMITÉ PERMANENT DE L'ENVIRONNEMENT ET DU DÉVELOPPEMENT DURABLE

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Tuesday, October 26, 1999

• 1111

[Translation]

The Clerk of the Committee: Honourable members, we have a quorum.

The first order of business is the election of a chairman. I am prepared to entertain motions to that effect.

Mr. Jordan.

[English]

Mr. Joe Jordan (Leeds—Grenville, Lib.): For the position of chair, I would be honoured to nominate Charles Caccia.

(Motion agreed to)

The Clerk: I invite Mr. Caccia to take the chair.

The Chairman (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): I will say a couple of words, and I will keep it short.

First of all, thank you for your confidence and for a choice that I hope will live up to your high expectations in delivering on the environmental agenda.

This is a committee, as you know, that actually does a job beyond the finance committee, because it looks at the long term. It looks at the long-term consequences of our economic activities and their effect on water and air and soil and the like. That is why sometimes we get into trouble with other committees, which do not always look at the long term. We do.

Included in that mandate of looking at the long term, I suggest to you.... Because our committee carries the name of environment and sustainable development, we look at prevention, and prevention is a difficult political task. Somehow it conflicts with short-term political agendas, as all those who have studied sustainable development very well know.

The combination of these two factors makes this committee a rather unique committee. Our work here somehow addresses not just current but also future generations.

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May I remind some of you who made speeches during the Speech from the Throne, which I've read very carefully, that there are certain issues that tend to be ridiculed when they are raised the first time. Acid rain was ridiculed in the seventies and dealt with very seriously in the eighties, not only by Canada but also by the United States. The ozone layer was ridiculed when it was raised, but dealt with rather expeditiously in less than six years. Lead in gasoline was also put aside as a non-issue, and yet dealt with in due course.

I submit to you very respectfully—and here I'm addressing mostly the new members of this committee—that climate change and the Kyoto agreement fall into the kind of category of issues that are perhaps ridiculed but that in due course will be seen as being in need of very close attention.

Today, in Bonn, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change committee is meeting. It is something that I would urge the members of this committee to follow by way of the website. It will receive a daily report.

I would like to underline the fact that since 1988 there has been a panel studying this issue. It is called the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. More than 2,500 scientists have participated in the work of that panel, and they have also studied and reported on the effects of climate change on Canada. Therefore the questions that some of you asked during the Speech from the Throne debate have already been answered. All that is required is to look up the report of that panel dated 1991, if I remember correctly, indicating what would happen to Canada's natural composition as a result of climate change. There is a very precise description.

Might I add also—and it is important that this be put on the record—that there is disagreement amongst scientists on how many greenhouse gases are being emitted. This disagreement, however, is on quantity and not on whether. There is scientific agreement, except for perhaps a few on the lunatic fringe somewhere in Washington, who don't see it that way, and of course they are fully entitled. The scientific community rarely is 100% behind an issue. I think we have come a long way from the times when we expected to see the smoking gun before taking action.

As to the scientists who disagree—and it is an important issue—the disagreement is one that requires attention. I don't know whether we will ever deal with that in this committee, but there are some who are saying that the tonnage varies from 4 billion tonnes, some are assessing it at 36 billion tonnes, and some others are in a range, apparently, somewhere in between these two extremes. Of course it is important for us in Canada because that could also determine the action we have to take.

I'm only raising this item because of the Speech from the Throne debate and because of some interventions that tended to ridicule the issue. I think that is a very dangerous path to follow, because there is already 11 years of solid scientific work behind this issue.

Having finished the sermon from the mountain, I had better now proceed with the next item and see whether we are ready to elect the two vice-chairs. Are we ready?

Yes, sir.

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Ref.): Mr. Chairman, I'd like to nominate Rahim Jaffer as the vice-chairman for the opposition.

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The Chairman: We have one nomination and we can entertain a second.

Yes, sir.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): I can nominate Karen Kraft Sloan for the government side.

The Chairman: Yes, that way is very helpful, because there is one from each side. We now have two nominations.

The clerk advises that we would be better off doing one motion at a time. We have received two motions. Are there any further motions? No? In which case, we'll take the motion from the Reform Party first, with Mr. Casson nominating Mr. Jaffer.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Thank you.

Welcome to the committee, Mr. Jaffer. We look forward to working with you.

Then we have the motion with Mr. Herron nominating Madam Kraft Sloan.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Madam Kraft Sloan, congratulations.

Now we go into a series of items that the clerk needs as directions from this committee in order to deal with business of the committee.

Let me first draw to your attention the fact that the clerk has distributed a budget. Since there are so many new members of this committee—five—it seems perhaps advisable not to proceed today with the budget adoption but to give you time to read it, familiarize yourself with it, and deal with it at the next meeting of this committee, because the clerk is saying that we are close to bankruptcy, so we need some oxygen. Is that all right with you if we deal with that at the next meeting?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Madame Girard-Bujold.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Chairman, with respect to public hearings, I would have liked to see at least two reports, including a study on pesticides. I'd like us to focus on pesticides as well as on organic persistent pesticides.

The Chairman: We'll get to that in a few minutes. But first, we have to dispense with the procedural motions.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Fine. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

The Chairman: All members have received a list of les motions de routine. I will call, as is customary for this committee in particular, the second item, namely, the one retaining the services of the Library of Parliament. Because this committee is not large enough to warrant the first item, we will go into the second and I would entertain a motion to the effect that such services be retained.

[Translation]

So moved by Ms. Girard-Bujold. Thank you.

[English]

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Thank you.

The next item has to do with the chair being authorized to receive evidence when a quorum is not present, but provided that at least five members, including at least two opposition members, are present. Are there any comments on this? First of all, we need someone to move it.

Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.): So moved.

The Chairman: Thank you, Madam Torsney.

Are there any comments on this particular motion? Is it satisfactory to the opposition? Five members? I think five members is a pretty large number. In some cases, even the attendance of four is difficult.

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The Clerk: That includes the chair as well, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: That includes the chair, yes.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: The next one has to do with the ten-minute rule, which is of course a flexible one; it's not used in draconian terms. I don't know whether we'll need this motion; it is just an indicative motion. Do you see a need to adopt it?

Some hon. members: No.

The Chairman: Madame Torsney.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: I would speak in favour. I'd like to move it and I'd speak in favour of it.

It's particularly important when you have panels of people. When one person has in fact kept to a time limit and the next person feels the need to speak for 30 minutes, it's not exactly fair. We should enforce it and then people can come back on questions and answers to elaborate.

The Chairman: So moved, fine.

Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: I believe the last session worked quite well, and I don't think we necessarily had a high degree of rigidity in terms of the time allocation. I think we're able to have more flexibility, given the number of witnesses we might have at a given time. So I think to have more flexibility at the discretion of the chair would be probably more prudent and more flexible.

The Chairman: Madame Torsney makes a good point related to panels, which is certainly very helpful.

Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): Mr. Chair, I would support Mr. Herron simply because if there is a panel, the chair can identify the procedure for that particular committee hearing, whether it's five minutes or ten minutes or fifteen minutes. It's up to the chair to maintain order.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Mr. Casson and Madame Girard-Bujold.

Mr. Rick Casson: Mr. Chairman, I think it's important we do have some basic structure in place, and then if we do deviate from that it would be at the call of the chair or passed with unanimous consent or whatever. There should be some structure at least.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Thank you. Ms. Girard-Bujold.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I agree with the honourable member because I think we need to set some parameters. After that, the Chairman can exercise his own discretion, but I think it's important for us to set some time limits at the outset.

[English]

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Now, questioning to be limited to five minutes. Do we have a motion to that effect? Madame Torsney moves that all questioning be limited to five minutes per member and that the chair direct the first two questions to the opposition members, the second two to the government members, and subsequent motions alternately.

Are the opposition members comfortable with that, Mr. Casson?

Mr. Rick Casson: Mr. Chairman, last time didn't we have eight minutes for the opposition to start our first round?

The Chairman: The last time, depending on the number of witnesses and the heat in the room, it was ten minutes at times and other times five when it was obvious that ten minutes would have taken us beyond the two-hour allocation for the meeting. So it would depend on the number of witnesses. We either use ten or five.

Mr. Rick Casson: I think some of the other committees have agreed to a rotation that starts with the official opposition getting ten minutes and then the other members of the opposition getting five and then switching back to the Liberals for ten. I think how it goes is Reform ten, Bloc five, Liberals ten, Reform five, Liberals five, NDP five, Liberals five—that kind of a scenario.

The Chairman: No, we did not adopt that in the past. This is a measure that comes from where?

The Clerk: This is what the committee adopted on October 7, 1997.

The Chairman: This is the regime under which we operated in the first session of this Parliament.

Mr. Rick Casson: I thought we had eight.

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The Chairman: The clerk reminds us that this was the formal motion we adopted in 1997. That doesn't mean that it is engraved in stone. It is always very difficult to apply it with great precision for any chair, unless you want to hate the chair in very short order, which I don't think is the wish of the committee. There's always flexibility in this kind of application. Usually the first questioner, who is the official opposition, inevitably gets ten minutes, but I would not want to apply the same rule to other members of the opposition, quite frankly. I would rather keep it the same for everybody.

Mr. Rick Casson: I think the official opposition should still have somewhat more time than the others, just strictly in numbers.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: You have ten minutes.

Mr. Rick Casson: You're saying five.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Five, but you get the first two questions.

Mr. Rick Casson: Not the official opposition; just opposition. You're suggesting the second questioner be...that we each get five.

The Chairman: Mr. Reed.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): In my experience on other committees, Mr. Chairman, there are times when committee members are very anxious to ask questions, and if there's time a second round goes around, but we're sometimes only allowed two minutes to do the second round. The first round is a prescribed time. Whatever time that is and whatever time the opposition feels it should be is fine with me, but I think there should be enough discretion there that when there are a lot of questions coming from committee members to witnesses, sometimes in the interests of brevity we might agree to maybe even compress the time and become more efficient in the way we use words, and so on. So if you want ten minutes to start, that's fine.

The Chairman: First of all, we need to move this motion, and then we may need an amendment to this motion.

Madame Girard-Bujold.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Chairman, I can live with this motion: “5 minutes per member and that the Chair direct the first two questions to the Opposition members”. However, there's one thing that puzzles me. The motion goes on to say: “that subsequent questions be alternately shared between Opposition and Government members at the discretion of the Chair.”

Could you explain the latter part of the motion to me?

The Chairman: It means that after members have twice been allotted five minutes, any subsequent questions alternate between the Government party and the opposition parties, which means that the NDP will probably be the fourth opposition party to ask a question.

However, as you may recall, in the past, the Chairman has often allowed three or four opposition party members to ask question before recognizing government party members.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: You say here that...

The Chairman: The Chairman does this out of the goodness of his heart.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I realize that you acted out of generosity last year, but I would like us to agree on a specific format right now so that things stay on track. I would find it unacceptable if the Reform Party were allotted ten minutes first, then 10 minutes to...

[English]

The Chairman: We have a motion before us, moved by Mr. Reed, that we adopt this motion, but we are ready for an amendment. Mr. Herron had his hand up first, and then you, Mr. Chatters.

Mr. John Herron: Just for some clarity, what is the difference in terms of what Mr. Casson is proposing versus what we did last year?

The Chairman: That the official opposition be given ten minutes for the first round of questions.

Mr. John Herron: Last year it would have been the situation where let's say Bill asked a question and then it went over to the government side?

The Chairman: Last year, usually the procedure followed was the official opposition, then we went to the Bloc, and then often we went to the NDP and the Conservatives; or opposition, the Bloc, then we took one from here, then we did Conservative and NDP. Then usually at the end of the first round there would be a second member of the Reform Party who wanted to ask a question, because very often there was not a second member of the Reform who would be included in the first round, for a total of ten minutes, anyway.

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So it worked out, but not at the very beginning. It was at the beginning and towards the end.... Then finally, after all that, the chair would ask a question, having kept the traffic clear until that point.

Mr. Chatters first.

Mr. David Chatters (Athabasca, Ref.): I just wanted to introduce an amendment to the motion in the third line to read: “questions to the official opposition members”.

The Chairman: Yes. This is to implement what Mr. Casson was saying earlier.

Madame Torsney.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: I would like to point out to the chair that while there are two members who include the Burlington area in their ridings, we are not to be confused. I was actually the one who moved the motion, not Mr. Reed.

The Chairman: Oh, sorry.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: Seeing as how we both have androgynous names, I can see why you'd mix those up.

The Chairman: You have heard the amendment, proposed by Mr. Chatters, to the effect that the word “official” be inserted before the word “opposition” in the English version.

Mr. David Chatters: In the third line.

The Chairman: And on the fourth line in the French version, correct?

Mr. David Chatters: Yes.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Ms. Girard-Bujold.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I'm opposed to this motion, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: You'll have an opportunity to vote on it.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: The vote is on the proposed amendment.

[English]

The Chairman: Yes.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: Just to clarify.

The Chairman: I'm going to seek now a vote on the amendment by Mr. Chatters, right? We don't have any other amendments.

(Amendment negatived)

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Next is travelling and living expenses. Could we have a mover to that effect, please? Mr. Lincoln so moves. Thank you.

(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

Mr. David Chatters: Mr. Chairman, I may be confused here, but I didn't understand what the decision of the committee was on the steering committee. Is the steering committee going to be committee of the whole or...?

The Chairman: We didn't put it, because that is the kind of motion you have when a committee consists of 30 members. Our committee is a small one—

Mr. David Chatters: So we're going to be a committee of the whole?

The Chairman: —so there is no need for that.

Mr. David Chatters: Okay.

The Chairman: And if there is a need, then it will be done.

Then there is a motion that was adopted in November 1997. Would anyone like to move it? It concerns books and authorizing the clerk. Mr. Lincoln so moves.

(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Chairman: Next is one adopted in June 1998, the 24-hour notice provision. Would someone move that motion?

Mr. David Pratt (Nepean—Carleton, Lib.): I so move.

(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

The Chairman: On the same page: that the chair be authorized to purchase gifts on behalf of the committee for visiting delegations to Canada.

Mr. Julian Reed: I so move.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Any questions or discussion?

Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, will the chairman consider one of these Boss turtlenecks as a suitable gift?

The Chairman: The motion reads “for visiting delegations to Canada”.

Yes, Mr. Jaffer.

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Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, Ref.): I've only been on two other committees and I've never seen this before. I'm just curious. Is it normal practice on committees for the chair to buy gifts?

The Chairman: First of all, it's very rare that we have a visiting delegation to Canada, so it would happen once in a very blue moon. When it happens, it's good to have the clerk and the chair have that power because sometimes there is not enough time to plan it.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Okay.

The Chairman: So it is a blanket of power that is not going to be misused. I can give you that reassurance.

Madam Torsney.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: Just for information—

The Chairman: Have we ever used it?

Ms. Paddy Torsney: No. When the blue moon occurs, what's the price range for the gift?

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

The Chairman: It's very low.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: Not that we want to tip our guests off to what they might be getting, but $50 or $25 or...?

The Chairman: The clerk says that we have done it once, on the occasion of the Chinese delegation.

So moved by Mr. Reed.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Finally, there is the motion that deals with working sessions during meal hours and the costs of meals. Again, it is not used frequently, but sometimes it's necessary. Mr. Jordan moves that.

Is there any discussion? Madame Girard-Bujold.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: That's not the motion on which I wish to comment.

[English]

(Motion agreed to)

[Translation]

The Chairman: Ms. Girard-Bujold.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: We have not moved a motion respecting the distribution of papers. I propose that all documents received by the Committee by translated and made available in both of Canada's official languages.

[English]

The Chairman: Yes, thank you, Madame Girard-Bujold. That is very important. So moved.

Madam Torsney.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: Could the clerk provide some information on exactly how the motion is going to read? Furthermore, does that mean that if a group comes here and has only prepared their brief in French, are we allowed to hear them? Can we move forward if we only have it in French? I would think that we'd need some flexibility on that. From time to time, groups don't submit their documentation early, and I don't think we should not hear them.

The Chairman: The meeting is not going to be prevented, but nevertheless, there is a general direction as to what is a desirable procedure. We cannot expect witnesses to produce their documents in two languages if they come at the last moment. That applies for briefs that are in French as well as for those that are in English.

But certainly in the official documentation of the Government of Canada, we have to adopt this rule.

Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Mr. Chairman, we should clarify the difference between official documentation and documentation that comes before the committee and should be translated but might arrive here just the day before. What we don't want to do is to bind ourselves to translating before the meeting. It would be almost impossible in some cases, either French to English or English to French.

The Chairman: Would you mind informing the committee, please?

The Clerk: Mr. Chair, as far as the clerk is concerned, the Official Languages Act would apply and this motion would not really be required. It would be required, I suppose, technically speaking, if the committee decided that it would depart from this guideline. As far as we're concerned, every document circulated officially by the clerk on behalf of the committee will be in the two official languages.

The problem you have, of course, is if someone brings a document at the last minute. How will that be treated? It will ultimately be translated, of course, but how will it actually be treated during the meeting?

I think we have to make the distinction, Mr. Chairman, between a brief, which is a formal document, and the other paper that members frequently request, that is, the speaking notes. Obviously the speaking notes are given to us as a favour by witnesses and are not documents of the committee.

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[Translation]

The Chairman: Mr. Chrétien.

Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien (Frontenac—Mégantic, BQ): There is a ongoing language debate taking place in Quebec and a court ruling was handed down last week. At least here at the House of Commons, we should uphold the Official Languages Act. A unilingual member, whether anglophone or francophone, should receive the documents in his or her language at the same time as the other members, not fifteen days later. If a witness arrives with a unilingual French document, then that document isn't circulated to committee members until it's translated. If this rule were stringently enforced, then we wouldn't be debating the issue this morning. The witnesses would be aware of the situation in advance, because it's almost always the same people who testify. They would know that if their submission is not translated, then it will not be circulated at the meeting. Besides, that's the way most committees operate.

[English]

The Chairman: Mr. Chrétien makes a point that has always been respected, namely that the distribution of a document takes place only when it is available in both languages. This is a very important consideration. Therefore, distribution will not take place when it isn't available in both, because it gives an unfair advantage to those who have the command of the other language. So it seems to me that it's perfectly in line with what we have done so far.

Mr. Herron and Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. John Herron: My tendency would be to support the initiative by my colleague from the Bloc on this kind of concept. The problem this raises is that I recall when we had the brief from CELA just toward the end of last year, which was a document of some 80 or 90 pages, and it was only published even days or weeks before the committee actually sat. This is a relatively small NGO that would have to allocate a fair amount of budget in order to have that document done in time to appear before committee.

I think the motion is in order and should be followed, but in that particular circumstance, even if the committee had to translate that particular document, the question is do we translate 80 pages in sufficient time? That may not be able to be done on the rarest of occasions. I'd like for the chair to have some flexibility on that, even requesting maybe the consent of the committee.

I think we have to be sympathetic to this motion by the Bloc, but I don't know if we can keep it hard and fast.

The Chairman: Well, you know, you either stick to a rule or not. Your memory serves you correctly: the CELA brief was distributed, because there was not enough time, in one language only, and the other version came later. But it was not translated at the expense of the NGO; it was translated here in Ottawa.

Mr. Lincoln.

[Translation]

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Mr. Chairman, I conducted a similar experiment. I think that everyone here, without exception, is fully supportive of the Official Languages Act and would like both languages to be treated equally. However, the committee must be able to operate.

Tomorrow morning, you are scheduled to meet with non-profit organizations that are preparing submissions. If we inform them that they cannot testify or that their submission must be received in both official languages before they can testify and if the Translation Bureau has so much work that it can't keep pace—we mustn't forget that we are only one of many committees—then what are we to do? Do we postpone the meeting? We could agree that in some cases where briefs are submitted at the last minutes in only one language, we can still hear from that witness and have the documents translated later. We could also adopt a rule whereby briefs must be submitted three or four weeks in advance, but even then, what guarantee would we have that the translation would be ready on time? We would have to be quite certain that the Translation Bureau could provide us with a translation in time for the meeting. What happens if it can't oblige us? I could tell you about many instances where it was unable to provide a translation because it was completely snowed under with work. Perhaps then we should consult the Speaker's office and find out whether it has any additional resources to hire more translators. What happens if the translation cannot be provided in time for the meeting? Do we postpone it? That's what I want to know.

• 1150

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Lincoln.

Ms. Girard-Bujold.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Chairman, in my view, this suggestion is completely reasonable. Last year, we made two exceptions in the case of organizations that arrived here with reports drafted in English only. The committee unanimously agreed to allow these documents to be tabled. We can proceed in the same manner. Some small agencies cannot afford to have their submissions translated. This responsibility falls to the committee. We have a certain amount of room to manoeuvre and we took advantage of this latitude last year. Nevertheless, I insist that we adopt this motion.

The Chairman: Ms. Torsney.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: I think it's extremely important to receive documents in both languages at all times. However, if the clerk receives a brief in French, I want to receive the translation as soon as possible. I don't care whether it's a unilingual French or unilingual English document. I would want the document to be produced in the other language as soon as possible. I don't mind getting the translation later, if it's faster that way.

The Chairman: Mr. Chrétien.

Mr. Jean-Guy Chrétien: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Lincoln is the only member of this committee who is perfectly bilingual. I've been an MP for six years and a day, and I don't want to suffer the humiliation in the House of receiving documents in my language 15 days after everyone else. When it comes to submitting documents, we need to uphold the spirit and letter of the Official Languages Act, out of respect for all citizens of this country.

You claim that no one here objects to the Official Languages Act. However, explain if you will the meaning of “as soon as possible”. As I see it, "as soon as possible" means at the current meeting, otherwise, the documents cannot be tabled. I remind you that small NGOs with little money to spare need only submit their briefs in advance so that they can be translated at Parliament's expense. It won't cost them a red cent. However, they need to send in their documents at least several hours in advance of the meeting. If necessary, the translators can work overtime. The guards work overtime and so too can the translators. I'm not willing to budge on this issue. In order for a unilingual document to be circulated, the unanimous consent of committee members should be required.

The Chairman: Thank you.

[English]

Yes, Mr. Pratt.

Mr. David Pratt: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd just like to say that I'll be supporting the Bloc motion on this. I think we have to look at this issue from the standpoint of our position as members of Parliament. As members of Parliament, we are all equal.

The thing that bothers me about distributing documents in only one language is that I think from the standpoint of our work as members of Parliament it puts some of us in a position of being more equal than others in terms of access to information in our own language. I think it also encourages groups to be prepared when they come here. Obviously we do have to work within the guidelines and spirit of the Official Languages Act.

• 1155

I think as well—and I think this is important for the work of this committee—it will also encourage groups in terms of their briefs to be just that: brief and succinct in the comments they put forward to committee. So I'll be supporting the Bloc motion.

The Chairman: The clerk notes, and I agree with him, that motions of this kind require longer lead times, not so much on the part of the groups submitting a brief alone, but because the translation itself will take time here in Ottawa in order to be carried out before the document can be distributed.

At the same time, however, this is a motion that sets a general rule. It establishes a general practice. From time to time it may be necessary to distribute a document in French that is not translated, and the chair will ask the committee for consent to do that, though the anglophones will have to scramble. And from time to time it will be perhaps a document in English and the reverse will take place. But at least we have these general rules the clerk can invoke with witness, which at times will require, of course, a delay in a meeting because it will not be possible to schedule something for this week on Thursday, but ten days from now, because the documents need to be translated.

It seems to me that as a general rule we have here a benchmark that is important. Unless there is an amendment coming forward, I will put forward the motion.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Mr. Chairman, I will support this motion. The spirit of it is first class. However, I think in the circumstances we should give proper notification to groups that are going to be here. Sometimes we give them a very short time. We make it almost impossible for it to happen. So if we have this rule, we'd better just give them ample time. It will take probably a month or three weeks at least.

The Chairman: No, no, the translation service is not that bad.

The Clerk: Mr. Chairman, in all of my communication with potential witnesses I remind them of the requirement to get their briefs in on time so that they can be translated and circulated.

An hon. member: But we have to give them enough time.

The Chairman: Yes, we—the clerk. That's part of his task.

All right, two more and then we will carry on. Madame Torsney and Mr. Chatters.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: Just a couple of observations. First, I would not be humiliated to receive a brief in French. I would be happy to receive briefs as soon as possible.

If we go ahead with this motion, I think Mr. Lincoln's point is very well recognized. If you're giving notice to an organization that may have a board of directors that is pan-Canadian and they need some time to put together a brief and then they need to get it to us and then we can only receive them if things are in both official languages, in order for the group to have time to have it translated here, I think you are often talking about a month's notice. We have to be fair to the people who are presenting by giving them enough time to prepare it. They have other things on their agenda.

I simply say I absolutely support the Official Languages Act. I absolutely think all official documents have to be available and as much as possible we need to make sure that everybody has access to the information as soon as possible in both official languages. But God forbid we have an amazing presenter that only has their brief in French. I'd be happy to hear them and to read them and to receive their brief in English later, if that's the only way to get their testimony and to be fair to them in encouraging them to participate in the process. We do have two official languages, and we are able to hear them in either language when they come here as well.

The Chairman: Mr. Chatters.

Mr. David Chatters: Mr. Chairman, I would just like to say that every organizational meeting of every committee that I've been part of since I came here has involved this discussion. Yet this issue, in my opinion, has never been a problem in any of the committees simply because it's a given that any documents that are distributed by the clerk are in both official languages, and if a group comes in that isn't able to provide those translated versions, that group makes an oral presentation and the written presentation is later presented to the committee. So I don't see a problem or why there's a debate. It seems very simple that at the discretion of the chair, if they don't have both official languages they give an oral presentation and we receive the written one later.

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(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: May I now draw your attention to the motion on pesticides prepared by the clerk.

Mr. David Chatters: Mr. Chair, before you go to that, there are a couple of motions on procedure that I'd like the committee to consider.

First, I'd like to make a motion that whenever an Order in Council for appointment or a certificate of nomination for appointment is referred to the committee, the clerk of the committee shall obtain and circulate to each member of the committee a copy of the résumé of each appointment or nominee.

The Chairman: Yes, that has been done in the past and we'll be glad to reconfirm it.

Mr. David Chatters: It's written here, but I have others on the sheet.

The Chairman: That is a normal practice.

(Motion agreed)

Mr. David Chatters: Secondly, Mr. Chairman, I would like to propose a motion that no in camera meetings shall occur without a vote of the committee in an open meeting.

The Chairman: There is always a consultation at the beginning of the meeting. We can't go in camera without the consent of the committee anyway.

Mr. David Chatters: But in my experience in other committees it's happened that there's an in camera meeting of the committee called and there is no previous vote of the committee.

The Chairman: Mr. Chatters, we may part company here, because there are times when an in camera meeting has to be called, and there are a lot of very good reasons to facilitate a free-flowing discussion. I wonder whether perhaps you can go on to your next motion.

Mr. David Chatters: I agree with that, but the fact is if the chairman chooses to call an in camera meeting at a public meeting, a motion and a vote should take place to go in camera.

The Chairman: No, that's the whole point. It then degenerates into a long discussion at the expense of having the meeting itself, which for a number of reasons is better held behind closed doors.

Madame Torsney and Mr. Reed.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: Two questions. One, in Mr. Chatters' scenario, I'm wondering what you are really talking about or what you are really concerned about. Secondly, if you were to call a meeting and have a meeting and then have a motion to go in camera, then you'd have to have 24 hours' notice, I would think. I'm not sure how that's all going to work.

The Chairman: Quite frankly, I would prefer a situation whereby at the meeting in camera someone proposes that the meeting not be held in camera and that a vote occur on that. If the motion is adopted, the meeting would then therefore move into a non-in-camera meeting. I don't know.

Mr. David Chatters: I can accept that, Mr. Chairman. I never envisioned there being a problem on the 24-hour notice. I would certainly be open to waive that provision for the purposes of the in camera session. It certainly seems to me that if we're going to require a 24-hour notice for every motion that would govern the operation of this committee, it's going to be very difficult. But certainly I wouldn't have a problem with your suggestion of reversing that procedure.

The Chairman: We've never had a problem on this whole issue, quite frankly. I don't know whether we are particularly innocent or particularly harmonious in our relations.

Of course, if a member of a committee does not want to have an in camera meeting, we could not force it. We wouldn't.

Mr. David Chatters: But you could, as is my point with this 24-hour notice call. If the committee strongly dissented about an in camera meeting on a particular topic, no one could raise that concern for 24 hours.

The Chairman: Perhaps the 24-hour notice is built in, in the fact that the clerk sends out a notice to that effect, that it is an in camera meeting and you already have that notice. If there is dissent on that, the clerk would be notified by the interested member.

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Could we have the next motion?

Mr. David Chatters: My next motion is made in connection with that. I would move that one copy of the transcript of all in camera meetings be kept in the committee clerk's office for consultation and that they be available to members of the committee.

The Chairman: That seems to be a practice.

Mr. David Chatters: Those are all my motions.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Before we conclude, and I see that some of you have other reasons for leaving, could I draw your attention to and seek your concurrence in a motion entertaining that this committee resume its consideration of pesticides?

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: So moved.

The Chairman: So moved by Mr. Clifford Lincoln, in person, seconded by Madame Torsney and Mr. Casson.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Thank you.

This meeting is adjourned.