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STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE

COMITÉ PERMANENT DES FINANCES

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Thursday, October 21, 1999

• 0938

[English]

The Clerk of the Committee: Good morning. Members of the committee, I see a quorum. In conformity with Standing Order 106(1) and (2), your first item of business is to elect a chair.

[Translation]

I am ready to entertain motions to that effect. Ms. Guarnieri.

[English]

Ms. Albina Guarnieri (Mississauga East, Lib.): It is my pleasure to nominate Maurizio Bevilacqua as chair. I know you're all acquainted with his talents as chair, and I know we have a lot of work to do.

[Translation]

The Clerk: The motion is that Mr. Bevilacqua do take the Chair of the committee.

[English]

All in favour?

Mr. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP): Are there any further nominations? Isn't that the procedure?

The Clerk: Oui.

Mr. Lorne Nystrom: I'd like to nominate Dr. Carolyn Bennett.

[Translation]

The Clerk: The motion is that Ms. Carolyn Bennet be elected Vice-Chair of the committee.

[English]

Are there any other nominations?

Ms. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's, Lib.): Do I get to decline?

The Clerk: No, you can't debate. You have to debate on the first motion first. Do you accept the nomination?

Ms. Carolyn Bennett: No.

The Clerk: Are there any other nominations?

It is moved by Ms. Guarnieri that Mr. Bevilacqua do take the chair of this committee.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair (Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua (Vaughan—King—Aurora, Lib.)): Thank you. I like to win them on first ballots. Thank you very much, everyone. Thank you, Albina, for nominating me.

We'll now move to the election of vice-chairs.

• 0940

Mr. Roy Cullen (Etobicoke North, Lib.): Mr. Chair, I'd like to nominate Monte Solberg.

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Ref.): I'm going to have to refuse that. I think we should nominate this guy instead.

I'd like to nominate Dick Harris, please.

The Chair: It is moved by Mr. Solberg for Mr. Harris. Any further nominations?

Mr. Harris, congratulations.

Now we have to move to the election of a second vice-chair.

Ms. Sophia Leung (Vancouver Kingsway, Lib.): I'd like to nominate Nick Discepola.

The Chair: In absentia. That's fine. That's allowed.

Congratulations, Nick, wherever you are.

Now we'll move to routine motions.

Ms. Guarnieri moves that the chair, the two vice-chairs, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance, a representative of each of the Reform Party, the Bloc Québécois, the New Democratic Party, and the Progressive Conservative Party do compose a subcommittee on agenda and procedure.

Mr. Monte Solberg: Mr. Chair, if I could, for a moment, I want to question the wisdom of having the parliamentary secretary on subcommittees. Although I know Roy is a great guy, the Minister of Finance does get to control the legislation and has quite a sway over things as is. I'm just wondering if we couldn't send a nice message about the independence of the committee by not necessarily having the parliamentary secretary on the subcommittee.

The Chair: Any comments on that? No.

So we're amending the first motion to delete the parliamentary secretary. We'll debate the amendment. Just for your information, your routine motions are listed here.

Any debate on this issue? All those in favour?

It's a tie. I guess I have to say that we have had a tradition in this committee and have also benefited a great deal from the input of the parliamentary secretary in dealing with the subcommittee on agenda and procedure. I will cast my vote in favour of keeping the parliamentary secretary as a member of the subcommittee. Therefore the amendment is defeated.

(Amendment negatived)

The Chair: Now we'll move to the main motion. All those in favour of the motion?

(Motion agreed to)

• 0945

The Chair: The next motion is that the chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence when quorum is not present, provided that the chair and at least two members are present, including a member of the opposition, and provided that if no member of the opposition is present 10 minutes after the designated start of the meeting, the meeting may proceed with the chairman alone as the reduced quorum. Agreed?

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Is it understood as the chair or his designate?

The Chair: Yes. Whoever is occupying the chair. Thanks for the clarification.

Mr. Richard M. Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Ref.): If I could just make a comment on this one, I remember the last couple of travelling shows we went on, there were times when there were three members from the Standing Committee on Finance present, and in my opinion it presented a pretty poor showing for those witnesses who came to make presentations before us that they felt were really important. I really think we should review our thinking on this, because if we're sincere about being the finance committee, going out and hearing Canadians across the country, the least we can do is have some people present to hear these witnesses to give them an idea that we're actually interested in hearing what they say. I had several comments from witnesses the last time when there were two or three people here.

The Chair: I agree with you. It doesn't send the right signals, and I personally remember particularly the sittings late in the evening where there were few members present. But I must say, and we all agree with this, that it's our responsibility as members to make sure we're present.

The gist of the motion here is that you can't have people showing up at, say, 9:30 a.m. and send them away until five or six or seven members show up. It's unfair to them as well. I'll expect members of the committee to be present, and if they can't make it to send a substitute. But my point of view is I wish we could have full attendance all the time.

Mr. Richard Harris: I just wanted to make that point.

The Chair: Your point is well taken.

Mr. Richard Harris: Let conscience be our guide.

The Chair: Exactly.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: The next motion is that the committee retain the services of one or more research officers from the Library of Parliament as needed to assist the committee in its work, at the discretion of the chair.

Mr. Paul Szabo: I so move.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: It is also moved by Mr. Szabo that, as established by the Board of Internal Economy and if requested, reasonable travelling, accommodation, and living expenses be reimbursed to the witnesses who are invited to appear before the committee, up to...

Yes, go ahead.

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg, BQ): You're going a little too fast. I'd like to focus for a moment on the quorum issue.

[English]

The Chair: You want to return to quorum.

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Marceau: Could someone please explain the rationale behind the latter part of the motion. It begins by saying that the presence of an opposition party member is required, but goes on to say:

    [...] provided that if no Member of the Opposition is present 10 minutes after the designated start of the meeting, the meeting may proceed with the Chairman alone as the reduced quorum.

As I understand it, a committee meeting would be allowed to proceed with a reduced quorum even if no member of the opposition party were present.

[English]

The Chair: This motion deals only with hearing witnesses. In other words, no motions will be passed or moved. Do you understand? It's just to hear witnesses.

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Marceau: Yes, I fully understand that. Mr. Chairman, I move that we delete the last part of the motion. In my view, it's essential that at least one member of the four opposition parties be present in order to avoid having only the Liberals represented. Paul seems to agree with me. Therefore, I'd like to move this amendment.

[English]

The Chair: The motion has already carried, so...

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Ref.): That's two motions ago.

The Chair: Yes. But I do want to point out to you that we can't... If there are three members of the government listening to a witness, we can't wait for people to show up. I expect people to be here. So I don't understand the purpose of your amendment.

• 0950

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Marceau: Then there would be at least one representative of the four opposition parties and not only government members hearing from witnesses. I can't understand why Ken doesn't agree with me.

[English]

The Chair: I think they should be there, you're right. It's basically your responsibility as a member.

The purpose of this is to basically say, look, we'll give a 10-minute grace period for people to show up. I expect you to be here on time, right? So this shouldn't pose a problem for anybody. It's very clear. This is not just a courtesy for members; it's also out of courtesy for witnesses, who shouldn't be waiting 15 or 20 minutes or half an hour for members to get here. If a meeting is at 3 o'clock, you should be here at 3 o'clock.

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Marceau: You're saying that my amendment is out of order.

[English]

The Chair: We've dealt with the motion already. You need to propose amendments as we deal with motions.

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Marceau: We were a little too hasty. I agreed with Paul, but...

[English]

The Chair: Sorry?

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Marceau: That's fine.

[English]

The Chair: Okay. I'll do it slowly, okay? I'll move a little bit slowly.

On witness reimbursement, it is moved by Mr. Szabo that, as established by the Board of Internal Economy and if requested, reasonable travelling, accommodation and living expenses be reimbursed to witnesses who are invited to appear before the committee, up to a maximum of two representatives for any one organization.

Mr. Harris.

Mr. Richard Harris: Mr. Chairman, I assume the wording of the last sentence, “two representatives for any one organization”, doesn't exclude individuals who would request to be witnesses.

The Chair: Yes. We'll make that a friendly amendment: organizations or individuals. Is that okay?

Mr. Richard Harris: Thank you.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: Now, questions: that witnesses be given up to 10 minutes for their opening statement, and that during the questioning of witnesses there be allocated five minutes for the first questioner of each party, and that thereafter five minutes be allocated to each subsequent questioner, at the discretion of the chair.

Mr. Harris.

Mr. Richard Harris: Mr. Chairman, I know this goes without saying, because we all experienced it last time, but I would just encourage that we be very firm on the 10-minute witness opening statement.

The Chair: Okay.

Mr. Richard Harris: You know how it happens when witnesses get going and it's hard to shut them down, that sort of thing. It's not that we want to, but if they know well in advance what the rules are and that the rules are strict, I think they can tailor their presentations to 10 minutes.

The Chair: Yes. And every time we call witnesses to appear in front of the committee, in our very first phone call we always say they should keep it to within seven to 10 minutes, not to exceed the 10 minutes. But from time to time it does happen, and you have to gauge it according to... But I will try to maintain really strict order on that.

Mr. Cullen.

Mr. Roy Cullen: Mr. Chairman, I don't know what the practice of the committee is, but do witnesses come here and read their briefs, or do we try to discourage that and ask them to submit their written briefs but just take the committee through a précis, the key points? I know it's not always possible, but if the witnesses are asked to do that... I mean, witnesses coming to a committee and reading their briefs...

The Chair: I've taken some measures to alleviate that particular challenge, which we've faced for at least the past two years, and you'll be receiving probably a couple of boxes from the clerk with all the briefs. I requested that the briefs be tabled with the clerk this summer, so you will be receiving all the briefs before the presentations.

Mr. Monte Solberg: That's good.

The Chair: So this is going to make life a lot easier, not only for us but also for the witnesses. It will also make it easier to adopt what you were talking about, Mr. Cullen, meaning that they can come here and just give us basically a synopsis of the main points, so we can get a chance to ask in-depth questions related to their briefs.

So you will all be receiving boxes of briefs.

Mr. Richard Harris: Mr. Chairman, on the subject of witnesses, what will be the final date for a witness list to be presented?

The Chair: We've already used last year's list to contact. Because of the time constraints we have, all those individuals on the list you proposed last year have been invited again, and once we get to the work plan... Obviously, some work has already been done during the summer, but if you have any further additions, the sooner the better.

• 0955

Mr. Richard Harris: Mr. Chairman, I suppose it's proper we understand that we do have time restraints. As the official opposition, I think it's our duty to remind the committee that we were ready to begin Parliament on September 22. The official opposition was ready to be here and to go to work. The extreme time constraints we're now experiencing were caused by the government of the day. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Ken Epp: I'd also like to say something. As you know, at those meetings where I was scheduled to be, I took my work very seriously. I was punctual.

I appreciate what the member from the Bloc said before about insisting that when witnesses are heard, a member of the opposition be there. I think the way to approach that is to say that there's nothing in any standing order or anything else that prevents us from being there.

I don't know what the answer to this is, but with regard to hearing witnesses, I had a number of occasions where I was somewhat embarrassed not only by the lack of numbers but also by some of the behaviour of the members of the committee. People were not really with it, if I can say that. I'm trying to be as diplomatic as I can be. I think we owe it to witnesses who come before us to give them our full attention.

One of the things I observed when I was there, since I was always the opening questioner, is that I often just got going on a line of questioning with some witnesses and then my time was up, and I wouldn't get back to them for an hour or an hour and a half. I found that very frustrating. So what I would like to propose is that we change the rotation of questioning so that the member of the Reform Party could have, say, 10 minutes in the opening, because you can't really do anything in five minutes. You ask one question, the guy takes four minutes to answer, and you're done. I like to have an exchange. So I'd like to have four or five different one-minute or 30-second exchanges, and then I'd like to get back a little earlier.

So I would like to propose that the rotation be that the Reform start with 10 minutes and then it go to the Bloc for five and then to the Liberals for 10 minutes, because they do have 50% of the membership of the committee, and then let it come back to Reform. I found that with half an hour or an hour intervening, it was very difficult to come back to my line of questioning. Then after that go to a back-and-forth rotation of five minutes. So I would like to propose that as an amendment.

The Chair: Mr. Marceau.

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Marceau: Mr. Chairman, I'm not surprised to hear this from my colleague Ken Epp because I've seen him talk for hours in the House without really saying anything. It's rather unfortunate that someone is proposing a change in the way we have proceeded since you took over as chair.

If we agreed with Ken, who seems to have some problems asking enough questions during a span of five minutes, and if we agree to extend the time allotted for questions to ten minutes, then MPs from all parties should be allowed to benefit from the same arrangements. It's only right.

[English]

An hon. member: Question.

The Chair: Question. We'll have to deal first with Mr. Epp's—

Mr. Ken Epp: I'm making that as an amendment.

And ancillary to that, without maybe putting it in the motion itself, I would like to encourage the chairman to be strict on the allocation of the time. I found it frustrating when time allocation was applied to me, and then subsequent members got almost unlimited time. That happened a number of times. So I'd like that improved. It would make me happier.

The Chair: I think you also have to just go with the flow. Sometimes members are asking questions that are very relevant, and others follow up on them. So we've had that type of thing. Let's say you're asking a question about taxes, and Mr. Nystrom wants to jump in. You have to allow me that type of flexibility if the member indicates to me that it's a follow-up question. We've done that as well. But I know that at times 10 minutes may not be enough time to ask a question.

• 1000

Mr. Ken Epp: Not to get into a little dialogue.

The Chair: Have you withdrawn the amendment?

Mr. Ken Epp: No, I don't think I did. That's a presumption on your part.

The Chair: The amendment basically reads that the order of questions be Reform, 10 minutes; Bloc, five minutes; Liberal, 10 minutes; Reform, five minutes. You would also have to give the NDP and the Conservatives some questions.

Mr. Ken Epp: They would go back and forth.

Mr. Lorne Nystrom: I think he might give us one minute each.

Mr. Ken Epp: No, you get your share.

The Chair: We'll take a vote on the amendment. All those in favour of the amendment?

(Amendment negatived)

The Chair: Now we'll go back to the main motion. All those in favour of the main motion?

(Motion agreed to)

Mr. Ken Epp: Mr. Chairman, since I lost the case, I want to make one more comment. I expect that from now on, if my time is taken away from me because I've disciplined myself to stop at the 10-minute mark, or whatever it was that was allocated, then, first, the chairman will also apply the limits of time to other members. Secondly, I hope he does not give time to members who until that stage have not even been paying attention to the questioning that has happened. I rest my case.

The Chair: Any further comments?

We'll move to working meals. It is moved by Ms. Bennett that, when required, the clerk be authorized to make the necessary arrangements for working meals for the committee.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: It is moved by Ms. Leung that one copy of the transcript of in camera meetings be made and kept in the office of the clerk of the committee for the purpose of consultation.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: It is moved by Ms. Guarnieri that, pursuant to Standing Order 111(4), whenever an order in council appointment or certificate of nomination for appointment is referred to the committee, the clerk shall obtain and circulate to each member of the committee a copy of the curriculum vitae of each appointee and nominee.

(Motion agreed to)

Mr. Richard Harris: Mr. Chair, before we go any further, at what point are we going to discuss the schedule here, just so I'm ready?

The Chair: It will be today, very soon.

It is moved by Ms. Guarnieri that the clerk of the committee be authorized to distribute public documents in the original language, provided that the translation and the distribution of the translation follow as quickly as possible.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: Now we will move to Mr. Harris' issue related to consultation, I gather, the work plan.

Mr. Richard Harris: Yes.

Mr. Monte Solberg: Mr. Chair, before we do that, I wonder if I could move that we retable report 19, For the Benefit of Our Children: Improving Tax Fairness - A study of tax fairness for Canadian families. The reason I'm asking for that, Mr. Chairman, is this was tabled, but with prorogation there is no longer any necessity for the government to respond to this—if there ever was. I'm not sure we requested a response initially. I guess what I'm asking is that it be retabled and that we request a response. There was a lot of good work down. Paul Forseth and others all pitched in and did a lot of work on it. It was certainly a big issue. I think we should at the very least get some kind of response from the government on it.

The Chair: I just want to bring to your attention that when we engaged in that particular study it was determined that we would make it part of the prebudget consultation hearings of this year. So we'll be looking at that report as part and parcel of the prebudget consultations. Therefore what you're saying is...

Mr. Monte Solberg: It would be nice to have an official response from the government. That's all I'm saying. The subcommittee has done its work.

The Chair: Now it comes to the main committee.

Mr. Monte Solberg: Right.

The Chair: It will be reintroduced as part of the debate but within the realm of prebudget consultations.

Mr. Monte Solberg: But if we also knew what the government had to say about it, that would be a little reality check for people who are commenting on it through the prebudget hearings as well.

• 1005

The Chair: That will be an input into the prebudget consultations, and that was very clear from the start, that that is in fact how we are going to deal with that particular issue. I'm just telling you what I remember from the last session. That was made very clear right at the beginning.

Mr. Monte Solberg: Do you have a problem, though? This wouldn't interfere with any prebudget—

The Chair: I am in the hands of the committee. I have absolutely no problem with entertaining motions from you or any other member.

Mr. Cullen.

Mr. Roy Cullen: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I wasn't party to the previous study, but if the intent was not necessarily to have a response from the government, and then the report was tabled and we prorogued, it seems to me redundant to retable it formally and ask for a response now, if that wasn't the original intent, to get a response from the government.

Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC): I think Mr. Solberg's point is that at least at the committee level we should study that report. Whether or not it was done before prorogation I don't think is relevant here. It was an important issue then. It's an important issue now, and there would be considerable insight gained from the study of that report. I don't think prorogation plays into it at all.

The Chair: Mr. Cullen.

Mr. Roy Cullen: I was just going to say, Mr. Chairman, that you clearly indicated, which sounds to me like it makes sense, that that report would form part of the prebudget consultations. I think the point I'm raising is if the committee wasn't looking for a government response before, why would we look for a formal government response now?

Mr. Monte Solberg: It would simply bring some focus to the prebudget hearings, that's all.

The Chair: But those issues will be dealt with during the prebudget consultations as well.

I just have to remind people about the spirit and the intent of that particular report. It made it very clear that it would also be part of the prebudget consultations.

Mr. Monte Solberg: My motion stands, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Absolutely. I'm just telling you what I recall as chair.

Mr. Harris.

Mr. Richard Harris: I would like to once again this year strongly object to the scheduling of the two meetings on November 8 and 9. As you recall, last year we were faced with a similar situation, and we pointed out that it makes it particularly hard, particularly for members who have a considerable amount of travel time to get back to their ridings. As you know, that is the week of November 11, where everyone must be in their ridings for the Remembrance Day ceremonies. In my particular case I cannot get home until sometime on the day of November 10—

The Chair: Mr. Harris, I don't mean to interrupt you, but I have a motion that I have to deal with, and that's Mr. Solberg's. That's what is on the table right now.

Mr. Richard Harris: I thought we were finished with that.

The Chair: No, we weren't. You'll be the first one after this.

The motion reads that the 19th report of the subcommittee on finance in the last session be retabled as the first report of the committee and that a government response be requested. That was moved by Monte Solberg.

Ms. Albina Guarnieri: Mr. Chair, I have a quick question. We will be discussing at a later date the report Monte alludes to. Is that your understanding?

The Chair: It will be part of the prebudget consultation essentially. That will be a piece of evidence.

Ms. Albina Guarnieri: Will that entail discussion at this table so that we can fully apprise ourselves of the report?

The Chair: Yes, absolutely.

Ms. Bennett.

Ms. Carolyn Bennett: If indeed a report usually takes 150 days, how would that help Mr. Solberg—

The Chair: You mean the government response.

Ms. Carolyn Bennett: —with anything? We will actually have our report and our prebudget consultations and recommendations done long before that.

Mr. Monte Solberg: I guess the obvious answer to that is if it was tabled June 9, perhaps it won't take 150 days. Maybe they'll have had a chance to consider it and perhaps we could have a response in two weeks. They've had a long time to look at this thing.

The Chair: Mr. Szabo.

Mr. Paul Szabo: Mr. Chairman, in my recollection of the subcommittee's activity, it was in response particularly to a request by the finance minister that this particular work be done.

I also recall that we made a commitment that the report and the subject matter certainly would be part of the prebudget consultations and that our subcommittee's report would certainly be a large part of the discussion, or at least assisting in the discussion, of the issues raised by that subcommittee.

• 1010

My understanding is that as a subcommittee report, generally it does not come back to the main committee for any further work but simply for receipt and reporting to the House. That is the normal practice. In my recollection, I've never heard of a report being tabled in the House without a request for a response. Otherwise, what's the point of tabling the report?

Notwithstanding that the government has 150 days, I think there was some good work done by that subcommittee. I think the issues have been relevant. I think there are matters that this committee will certainly want to pursue. I don't think it would be inappropriate to at least reflect standard practice. If the government's position is that they would like to reserve their report until after the prebudget consultations, because it will provide additional input, they have that option. If they want to respond in advance to give us some indication that might be helpful to us in our understanding of the facts or the issues, that also might be helpful.

Generally speaking, I think my basic point is that we went to the trouble to table a report. It was tabled in fact after the House adjourned, but both reports, productivity and the subcommittee report, were tabled after the House adjourned.

Ms. Carolyn Bennett: No.

Mr. Paul Szabo: The productivity one was before?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr. Paul Szabo: Just in terms of practice, I don't see that that should be an issue. The government has the opportunity to respond even if we don't request it. I thought personally, since the committee did the work, that the traditional practice of the House would be to table reports and request a response.

The Chair: I think there has to be a decision made by the committee to request a formal response from the government. That's standard procedure. So we'll have to be very clear on which reports we want a response. But the spirit of your thoughts is there. I understand what you mean, but I think we also have a great opportunity to deal with those issues within the realms of prebudget consultations.

Mr. Pillitteri.

Mr. Gary Pillitteri (Niagara Falls, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Since we're going to be discussing this in the next month or so, as far as the prebudget consultations are concerned, I think some of us who were not on that committee... We're asking for a response. We'll have the possibility to discuss it during the time of prebudget consultations. Some of us did not have any input or any say. Therefore a response would negate a lot us who were not on that committee. Therefore I think it's far greater, within the prebudget consultations, to address some of those points rather than having the report and asking for a response. I don't think it's really meaningful for some of us who were not part of it and had no idea what it was, rather than taking it off the table and putting it back on the table where we'll all have some input into it.

The Chair: Any further comments?

The motion is that the 19th report of the subcommittee on finance in the last session be retabled as the first report of the committee and that a government response be requested.

(Motion negatived)

The Chair: Mr. Harris, you were making some comments, as I recall, in reference to the week the House is not sitting, namely the week of November 7 to 13. Is that correct?

Mr. Richard Harris: Yes, and I want to refer back to last year when I brought this up. You sympathized with my protest and said you would take it into consideration for future scheduling.

• 1015

I think this is a fine schedule for Toronto or even anyone in Ontario who is facing maybe an hour or two of travel, but in the case of eastern MPs in Atlantic Canada and western MPs, it's a considerable distance. They spend most of the day travelling to get home. In many cases you cannot get home from Toronto the same night, such as the night of November 9, for example. I know you recall when I brought this up last year and cited the unfairness of it, but lo and behold, I see it here again. I would like to voice my strong objection to November 8 and 9. Surely, we could have fit it into a more convenient time.

The Chair: This schedule was put together with the help of the committees branch. We're going to have to ask you to explain why Toronto is on November 8 and 9.

The Clerk: When we were making reservations even last June, which is when we started, Toronto was booked solid. We have had a terrible time getting any days. Originally, we had just one day. We thought the Monday would be all right because members would have lots of time on the Monday. Then we had to add an extra half day. Now Toronto is full. So we're going right through Monday evening and then again on Tuesday, but we would be finished on Tuesday evening. The demand has just accelerated in the last week and a half, and we've had to keep adding. As a matter of fact, Toronto is now full, and we might have to bring any additional people to Ottawa. It was really a question of when we could get hotel space. For some reason Toronto was full during the latter part of October and the beginning of November. There are a number of city-wide conferences taking place. It was the most central of all of the locations for that week.

Mr. Richard Harris: I realize there's probably a reason for it. I just wanted to point out that this year we have a repeat of last year. In my particular case I basically have two days in my riding as a result of this. I think it takes Mr. Brison a considerable time to get home and Mr. Nystrom as well. So there is an unfairness here as a result of the situation. I hope that maybe this will be the last year we have to bring it up.

The other thing I wanted to question was the choice of location in Vancouver. I see that Coast Hotels has been chosen.

The Clerk: With regard to the choice of hotel, Ms. Tierney, who made the bookings, went through every hotel she could. Again, there aren't many availabilities that can handle the needs of the committee, so we took whatever we could at a price we could afford. The choice of hotel is usually a function of that, not anything else. You go through your list of the ones you traditionally go to and you take the first that can accommodate you.

Mr. Richard Harris: Right. This might be an opportunity to add a few more to the list for next year, because I did check some hotels that cost less than this and provide better accommodation and are located within half a mile of that location, and indeed they were available.

The Clerk: We can certainly add those to the list. I know Ms. Tierney is really efficient. She went through every one, and she would have—

The Chair: Those are all good points. We'll also have to decide how much we want to micro manage the process in the sense of scheduling and booking tickets and hotel rooms. Personally, I think we have quite a capable team when it comes to figuring out the best deal, the availability, and all those issues. I don't think the committee ought to be worried about ticketing, booking hotels, and all that.

Mr. Nystrom.

• 1020

Mr. Lorne Nystrom: My question was not on that. I have two concerns, Mr. Chair. The first concern is Toronto, the 8th and the 9th. I guess we're locked into that, but that's the week we're down. I know I have plans in my riding in Saskatchewan. It's a long way to get back and forth. It pretty well eliminates me. We have a parliamentary calendar. We should anticipate these things well ahead of time and just not schedule them during that period of time, unless we have an agreement, I think. So I assume we're locked into Toronto on those days. They couldn't be rescheduled?

The Clerk: I know Lise has phoned 25 to 30 hotels again and again and again. She has been calling for a long time. Something could always open up at the last minute, but by that time you have a hundred witnesses who have applied and been notified and scheduled.

Mr. Lorne Nystrom: One more question, Mr. Chair. Who determined what locations we're going to? How did that happen?

The Chair: That was from the last session.

Mr. Lorne Nystrom: Oh, so the last committee decided we're going to Calgary and Vancouver. For example, we're not going to be in either Manitoba or Saskatchewan. The committee was there last year. It was in Winnipeg and in Saskatoon. In those two provinces, as the whole committee knows, we're in the worst farm crisis since the 1930s. So there are a lot of people anticipating the committee to be in either Winnipeg, Regina, or Saskatoon, if not two or three of those. Our absence will obviously be noted. Is there a chance of adding a day and stopping in Regina or Winnipeg?

The Chair: I think we can look into that.

Mr. Lorne Nystrom: Regina would be the most logical because we were in Winnipeg and Saskatoon last year. I think if we don't do that, we're in for a little bit of a problem answering why we're not there.

The Chair: Absolutely.

Mr. Pillitteri.

Mr. Gary Pillitteri: Mr. Chair, I just wondered if it will not take a political overview since there's a by-election there. I think it should be looked at.

Mr. Lorne Nystrom: We can go there after the by-election. There's no by-election in Regina.

The Chair: I think you raise an interesting point. We're just looking at basically picking five cities based on the five regions, as you probably would gather.

Mr. Lorne Nystrom: For example, we're in Calgary and Vancouver on November 22 and 23. The by-election, Mr. Pillitteri, is on November 15. So we are in Calgary and Vancouver the week after the by-election. We can tag something on in there somewhere. It might make sense.

The Chair: It was just brought to my attention that so far we only have two requests from Saskatchewan to appear. Mr. Nystrom, the individual obviously has major concerns vis-à-vis the crisis you're referring to. Perhaps we can also try to reach out to them and make sure their point of view is expressed in committee. We'll look at that particular proposal.

Mr. Brison.

Mr. Scott Brison: Mr. Chairman, one of the perennial problems we have in committee is actually having the time to work together to write a report. Typically we've ended up with a dissenting report, but I think in some cases there's enough common ground that we could have agreement. If there were enough time allotted at the end of the consultation process for us to work, actually discussing the ideas as a committee, as opposed to individually discussing them with our own caucuses and then coming back or whatever in an opposition sense...I think we need to allot some more time than we have in the past to work together at the end, as opposed to effectively a report being tabled, a draft report at the committee, and us being given a couple of days to go off and do our own thing in terms of whether or not we'll respond. I think it would be great if we could have a few days to actually discuss our opinions and views on the consultations. We could actually have a better chance of coming up with a unanimous report potentially in some cases.

The Chair: Mr. Brison, I actually anticipated that particular concern. This is the reason why you should probably look at the last motion or relate it to the report motion. Usually this particular report should be in ten days prior to the last day of sitting of the House. I will ask your approval, of course, to in fact report during the week ending December 10, which means if we report on December 10, we'll actually be reporting maybe three or four days prior to the end. So we're trying to get in some more days precisely for that particular reason.

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Mr. Scott Brison: But if we can actually schedule some time as a committee to meet to actually review point by point, not over an hour or two hours but over a couple of days, where we actually have an opportunity to discuss the input of those who have taken the time to present, we can bring our own level of interest and expertise to the committee.

The Chair: Agreed. I think if you look at the time from the 2nd to the 10th... When we're on the road, and actually when we're here in Ottawa, right after the hearings we need to meet and discuss those issues, and I actually said that last year as well.

I can't be pushing people into doing things. You have to want to do it. But I think we have enough days to discuss the issues, and, secondly, to address that particular concern, the last motion is extremely important.

Any further comments?

I just want to go back to...that the committee adopt a proposed work plan for the prebudget consultation study and look into possibilities of having hearings in Saskatchewan. Is that fair?

Mr. Monte Solberg: Yes.

The Chair: We'll take that as a friendly amendment. Agreed?

(Amendment agreed to)

The Chair: Now it is moved by Mr. Szabo that the committee adopt the travel budget of $260,395.80 based on the proposed work plan. Of course, if we go to Saskatchewan, we might have to make some adjustments to the budget. Is that understood? Is that clear to everybody? Agreed?

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: It is moved by Mr. Nystrom that the committee approve the proposed operational budget of $159,604.20 based on the proposed work plan, and there again we would have to make amendments given the previous motion.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: This one should read that the committee invite the Minister of Finance to appear before the committee to deliver his 1999 economic and fiscal update at a date, time, and place pending the availability of the minister. Agreed?

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: It is moved by Mr. Marceau that the Standing Committee on Finance request the authorization of the House for the committee to travel from place to place inside Canada during the month of November 1999 during its prebudget consultation and for the necessary staff accompanying the committee. I would say November and December because if the Saskatchewan issue gets dealt with in December, then maybe we can include November and December. Is that okay? Agreed?

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: It is moved by Mr. Solberg that the committee seek the authority of the House to televise any or all of its prebudget proceedings.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: It is moved by Mr. Brison that notwithstanding Standing Order 83.1, the committee requests authorization from the House to table its report on the prebudget consultations during the week ending December 10, 1999.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: Any further comments on this?

Mr. Monte Solberg: Mr. Chair, with respect to the minister's economic and fiscal update, any sense of when that might be, so we can plan?

The Chair: I think it will be soon.

Mr. Monte Solberg: Would it be Tuesday perhaps?

The Chair: It's not for me. It's the minister who will have to tell you. That would be a good question in question period actually.

Mr. Monte Solberg: Really?

The Chair: I'm not a member of the opposition—I'm an independent chair—but I think that would be a great question to ask.

Mr. Lorne Nystrom: The minister will be here on Tuesday, November 2.

The Chair: Is that what you're saying?

Mr. Lorne Nystrom: Absolutely.

The Chair: A man with an inside track. What can I say about Mr. Nystrom?

That's about it. By the way, before we go, let's get this out of the way as well. Do we want to hear from the Governor of the Bank of Canada?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

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The Chair: We'll have to take into consideration the availability of the governor, but also our availability. Will you leave that up to me to decide where and when? That was moved by Mr. Szabo. Agreed?

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: Thank you. Do you have a question?

Mr. Paul Szabo: Very quickly. Mr. Chairman, during the work of the subcommittee there were a number of questions submitted to various parties with regard to that report on the subcommittee. Because of the timing, translation could not occur and therefore distribution of the answers could not be made without... I request that the questions submitted by the subcommittee for expertise in fact be translated and circulated to the committee.

The Chair: Agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Chair: The meeting is adjourned. Thank you very much.