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STANDING COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT

LE COMITÉ PERMANENT DES TRANSPORTS

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Thursday, October 14, 1999

• 1101

[Translation]

The Clerk of the Committee: Members of the committee, since we have a quorum, I am pleased to call this meeting to order.

[English]

In conformity with Standing Order 106(1) and 106(2), your first item of business is to elect a chair. I am ready to receive motions to that effect.

Mr. Stan Dromisky (Thunder Bay—Atikokan, Lib.): I nominate Stan Keyes.

Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester, PC): Madam Clerk, I nominate Joe Comuzzi.

The Clerk: As you know, we go with the first nomination, one by one.

Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Ref.): Madam Chair, can I request a secret ballot? Precedent has been set in other committees of this House.

The Clerk: Is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt a secret ballot for the first motion? We have to start with the first nomination, the nomination of Mr. Keyes.

Ms. Val Meredith: No, we should decide whether we're having a secret ballot first.

The Clerk: I have to deal with motions one at a time, so I have to deal with the first motion to elect the chair, Mr. Stan Keyes. If we go to secret ballot, we have to vote on Mr. Keyes, and then I have to go to the second nomination.

Ms. Val Meredith: How can it be a secret ballot if we do the motion to nominate Stan Keyes?

The Clerk: It could be a yes or no.

Mr. Bill Casey: On a point of order, wasn't my nomination first, for Joe Comuzzi?

The Clerk: Mr. Stan Dromisky's motion was first.

Mr. Joe Fontana (London North Centre, Lib.): I have a point of order.

An hon. member: He's fast. I didn't even hear him.

Mr. Joe Fontana: On a point of order, I think the rules of the House indicate that the clerk is not in a position to accept any other motion but one motion, and that is the election of the chair. Any other motions after that can be put forward once we have a chair in place. That has been the rule around this place for a long time. Just because the Reform Party hasn't been around for a long time, it doesn't necessarily mean you can just change the rules of the House of Commons.

Ms. Val Meredith: I think asking for a secret ballot to elect the chair—

Mr. Joe Fontana: She can't accept that motion. The only motion she's duly responsible for is the motion with regard to a chair.

Ms. Val Meredith: Is the motion on the floor?

Mr. Joe Fontana: I know you want to rewrite the Constitution of this country too, but—

The Clerk: Yes, in terms of procedure, I am entitled to receive the first motion. I did receive the first nomination of Mr. Stan Keyes to be elected as the chair.

Ms. Val Meredith: May I then amend that motion?

The Clerk: At this point I don't have the authority.

Mr. Lou Sekora (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, Lib.): Let's just take a vote. I'd rather not have a secret ballot on that one.

The Clerk: Okay, the clerk of the committee is to adopt—

Mr. Bill Casey: I have a point of order. Why can't you amend the motion?

The Clerk: The first motion was to elect Mr. Stan Keyes as the chair. You have the liberty to vote no at this point, and we will go to the second nomination.

Mr. Bill Casey: But the member voted to amend that motion. Why can't it be amended?

The Clerk: I believe at this point I need to go with the first motion. I have the authority to deal with the first nomination.

Mr. Bill Casey: Excuse me, you believe that's the rule?

The Clerk: Yes, it is the rule.

Mr. Bill Casey: Could you check that?

The Clerk: Yes, I could check Beauchesne's.

Mr. Bill Casey: All right, let's do that.

Ms. Val Meredith: I'm sorry to complicate this, but I understand there was an amendment to a motion to elect a deputy chair in another committee. All I'm asking is if I could amend the motion before the committee at this time.

The Clerk: If you will give me a few minutes, I will consult Beauchesne's and I'll consult a colleague, and I'll be....

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• 1111

[Translation]

The Clerk: I apologize for the delay. I have consulted with the committee and with Mr. Marleau, the Clerk of the House, and they confirmed that I had the right to oversee the first nomination.

[English]

As has been said by the committee, I deal with the first nomination. If you want to add any modifications, that will be done afterwards. I have to deal with the first nomination and then we will deal with the second one.

[Translation]

Mr. Guy St-Julien (Abitibi—James Bay—Nunavik, Lib.): I ask that we put the motion to a vote.

The Clerk: Fine. Is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt the following motion, that Mr. Stan Keyes be elected Chairman of the committee?

[English]

Mr. Bill Casey: Madam Clerk, could I ask for the reference in Beauchesne's?

The Clerk: It's a vote. I have to go ahead with the first nomination, Mr. Casey, and this is the motion on the floor.

Ms. Val Meredith: This is called democracy.

The Clerk: Yes, Mr. Sekora.

Mr. Lou Sekora: Can we get this vote over and be done with it? I nominated and I think we should take a vote on it.

The Clerk: It was moved by Mr. Stan Dromisky that—

Mr. Stan Dromisky: No, no, Lou Sekora.

The Clerk: No, no, your first nomination. You nominated Mr. Keyes.

An hon. member: No.

Mr. Lou Sekora: It was me.

An hon. member: It doesn't matter.

An hon. member: Madam Clerk, we don't know who—

The Clerk: Do you agree, ladies and gentlemen, that Mr. Stan Keyes do take the chair of this committee as the chairperson?

An hon. member: Who moved it?

An hon. member: Dromisky.

Mr. Stan Dromisky: We both said it at the same time.

The Clerk: I have Mr. Dromisky in my notes.

Mr. Stan Dromisky: I was just giving him the credit, that's all. I'm just being gracious, that's all.

Mr. Lou Sekora: I don't mind if my dad did it.

Mr. Bill Casey: Madam Clerk, I think we're getting some hand signals over here.

The Clerk: I call the vote for the first nomination, that of Mr. Keyes.

Mr. Bill Casey: On a point of order, I'd like a recorded vote.

The Clerk: You want a recorded vote? Okay, no problem.

(Motion agreed to: yeas 10; nays 6)

The Clerk: I declare Mr. Stan Keyes duly elected as chair of the committee.

Congratulations, Mr. Keyes. You may take over for the election of the vice-chair.

• 1115

Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

The Chairman (Mr. Stan Keyes (Hamilton West, Lib.): Thanks, everybody, for your confidence in me. It's going to be a spicy committee, I see.

Mr. Joe Fontana: I'm prepared to nominate Joe Comuzzi in absentia as the vice-chair of the committee .

Mr. Lou Sekora: I second it.

The Chairman: Mr. Bailey.

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Ref.): I propose to move the nomination of Val Meredith as vice-chair.

The Chairman: Are there any other nominations? Seeing none, we'll deal with the first nomination first.

It was moved by Mr. Fontana that Joe Comuzzi be elected vice-chair of the committee.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Mr. Joe Comuzzi is elected vice-chair of the committee.

On the second nomination, it was moved by Mr. Bailey that Val Meredith be elected vice-chair.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Val Meredith is elected second vice-chair of the committee.

Congratulations to Joe Comuzzi and Val Meredith.

Mr. Bill Casey: I have a point of order. I want to bring up a point on the House standing orders. Standing Order 106 says that we are to elect the chair, which we just did. Beauchesne's also says, in citation 782, that the clerk of the committee conducts an election to elect the chair. But last week the minister announced that you were going to be chair.

I think we can do a lot of good work in this committee if we are independent and not an arm and a pawn of the Minister of Transport. I'm concerned that he has already predetermined the vote on the first election for chair, which we already had. He announced in the Globe and Mail and the National Post, prior to anybody making a vote, that you would be the chair of the committee, and I take exception to that. I think we as a committee will fail and not do a good job if we are an arm of the minister and if the minister calls up and says “This is how this vote is going to go” or “This is what this report is going to say”. I just want to register my concern that the minister has a lot of influence here.

Also, in 1985, with all due respect to the parliamentary secretary, who is an excellent parliamentary secretary, the McGrath report recommended that parliamentary secretaries not also be on the committee.

So we have the minister, a week ahead of time, determining how we're going to vote as a committee and we have the parliamentary secretary on the committee—even though he's an excellent parliamentary secretary. I just want to make sure we don't have undue influence from the minister—

The Chairman: Okay. Thanks, Mr. Casey.

Mr. Bill Casey: —or the whole exercise is going to be pointless.

Thank you.

The Chairman: As a matter of response, I just want to make it clear that from my past life as chair of this esteemed committee, I know we have done a lot of good work. In fact some of the work we did flew in the face of the Minister of Transport, and the position we put forward in our final report did not meet all the expectations of the Minister of Transport. This committee, since I've been sitting on it—that's since 1988, so it will be 11 years next month—has always been the master of its own destiny, has always done its work exceptionally well, and has always worked in a collegial fashion. I think that was the key to having very successful reports, based on all the witnesses we had before us. We heard the witnesses, we applied their knowledge to the report, and the report came out as it did.

If the minister did say.... I didn't hear him say that. I heard him couch it in terms that he “hoped that”, etc., but at the end of the day it's this committee that will make the decision, whether it's voting for a chairman or voting for our final report. I hope we can reach a consensus on whatever matter....

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I'm going to close the debate on that side of it.

Are you going to continue on that?

Mr. Bill Casey: I just have one more related topic I want to get on the record. This is from the Globe and Mail: “The minister himself, Onex chairman Gerald Schwartz and other players in the airline war will appear before the committee.” So the minister has already set the agenda and the witness list. Obviously we're going to have these people, but it should be our choice who we have as witnesses and who we have as chairman. I want to have that on the record.

I have faith in the chair—I really do—but we can't be a pawn of the minister. We have a lot of work to do—

The Chairman: Not enough faith to vote for him, but enough.

Mr. Bill Casey: —of a very controversial nature.

Anyway, I want that on the record. Thank you.

The Chairman: All right, Mr. Casey. Thanks for your intervention.

Val.

Ms. Val Meredith: I would just like to reiterate that I too have faith in the chair and that I believe this committee can do good things in the years to come. But I am a little concerned with the report in the newspaper—and I wanted to get this on the record—that the Liberal caucus has struck a committee to deal with the airline industry to help set out the rules for the industry, that only they can set policies and rules that the government will be operating under in the future. I'm a little concerned that the Liberal caucus committee has undue influence on this committee.

I would like to think that this committee is a standing committee of Parliament. It is the legitimate forum for these things to be decided upon. I would like the confirmation of the chair that this is in fact the committee that will be taking the lead on these issues in transportation in the future.

The Chairman: On the heels of I believe your question in question period yesterday where you wanted to see leadership come from the government on the particular issue you were referring to, the airline issue—you were calling on the government to have leadership—the Liberal caucus has a committee called economic development, and I'm sure every party has different committees where members from constituencies across the country can come together and voice their concerns in a caucus. That report from caucus goes to our national caucus; it is reported to the national caucus.

It's probably a healthy endeavour, because whatever it is they find they can also contribute to all the input the minister is looking for, whether it's from this committee, from a Liberal committee, from a Reform committee, from a Bloc committee, from an NDP committee, or from a Conservative committee. All this input is only going to help the minister and the government make its decision at the end of the day.

Is it a parallel process that the Liberal caucus committee has going with this committee? No, it's not. I'm assured by the chairman of the economic development committee of the Liberal caucus that it is in fact not a parallel process. He has assured me that this is a forum for members to come together to voice their concerns, whatever they happen to be, on the airline issue, and then that report will be given, in private, of course, within the confidentiality of the Liberal caucus.

Ms. Val Meredith: Thank you.

The Chairman: Mr. Sekora, and then Mr. Bailey.

Mr. Lou Sekora: I did not read in the paper yesterday that you were going to be picked as chairman. I heard you might be standing for chair for this committee, and I was delighted. The fact is that I didn't read that. Frankly, I came here to vote for a chair of this committee. I am delighted by what has taken place. I didn't even hear Joe Comuzzi's name as vice-chair, not until just the last few minutes before the election. The fact is we're a committee and we have to do our work. Yes, there will be things the government will like and there will be things the government will not like. I think it's what's best for everybody.

I'll tell you what. If we walk into this room with the attitude that it's somehow skewed, then we might as well not be on this committee.

The Chairman: That's probably why you never heard this chairman ever say “as the incoming committee chair”, or any of that nonsense, because, as we all know as politicians, things can change from day to day and from hour to hour.

Thanks, Mr. Sekora.

Mr. Bailey, and then Ms. Desjarlais.

Mr. Roy Bailey: Thanks, Mr. Chair. Congratulations, Mr. Chair.

The Chairman: Thanks, Roy.

Mr. Roy Bailey: I guess my concern is a concern that crosses party lines. This is a national concern, because I'm not blaming the minister as much as the way it came out. The government has the majority on the committee, and we recognize that.

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I think the biggest error that was made.... If the minister had said that in due course, or because this is such a national issue, no doubt the committee on transport will be studying the airline industry.... But to name it as it appeared in the paper destroys the credibility of the committee and it makes the public look at the committee as a rubber stamp. I'd like to be on record as saying that that statement hurt me as a member of this committee—not that I don't get along with everybody on the committee, but it did leave the public with the inference that the minister decides the topics of this committee, and that's not necessarily true. That really bothered me, Mr. Chairman, and I'd like that to be recorded as such.

The Chairman: Thanks, Mr. Bailey.

We'll try not to belabour this point. We still have some routine motions to put forward and we can deal with them. I have recognized that Bev and Mr. Guimond also want to have a word before we move on.

Bev.

Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): As much as you'd like not to belabour it, this committee was almost seen as not sitting at all in the last sitting, just prior to the summer recess, because the Liberal side of this committee did not see fit to address a number of transportation issues and were forced by the opposition critics to have—

The Chairman: Okay, Bev, I'm going to cut in—

Ms. Bev Desjarlais: Just a minute. They were forced—

The Chairman: I'm going to cut in here because what has happened in the past is of no relevance to the committee that has just been formed.

Ms. Bev Desjarlais: The point I'm making is they were forced to address the serious issue of the airline crisis prior to the summer recess because the opposition critics forced them to do that. Can you imagine the mockery of this committee had we not sat as a transportation committee months ahead of the summer recess with the airline crisis right on the verge...?

The Chairman: Thank you.

Ms. Bev Desjarlais: So the bottom line is the mockery of democracy that has taken place today just indicates that there has been no change and we will have to continue to pressure this Liberal government and that side to not be the little rubber toys, Pokey and Gumby, that can be moved around by the minister.

The Chairman: Okay.

[Translation]

Mr. Guimond.

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de- Beaupré—Ile d'Orléans, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I wouldn't want us to acquire any bad habits. Nor do I want to offend a colleague who spoke before me, whether that colleague is a member of an opposition party, or Mr. Sekora.

I simply want to convey to you my party's desire to discuss the future of the airline industry in Canada as soon as possible. The jobs of both Canadian and Air Canada employees are threatened. Families and individuals will suffer a loss of income. I hope that we can stop arguing about trivialities, stop crying over spilt milk and stop fixating on whatever was or wasn't done in the past. We the members of the opposition held meetings 15 days ago and we believe that the committee must turn its attention to this matter as soon as possible.

[English]

The Chairman: Mr. Guimond, since you're the last speaker, you've summarized precisely, I think, where this committee.... I have provided a lot of latitude on this stuff because I'm hoping we can get it all out of our system. When all these people who are here, who are interested right now in what the committee is doing.... Instead of having fifty people in the audience, we usually end up having one or two, and we end up rolling up our sleeves and doing it. I've had the experience that this committee—and I've attended many committees—always seems to do this work in almost a non-partisan fashion. We don't get into the digs and the squabbles of our party position or any of that kind of thing. I think we are going to advance whatever the issue or subject matter that this committee determines to be seized with in the next month or so, over the next couple of months, whatever that issue happens to be. We've always worked well together, and I hope we can return to the type of work we were doing in the past.

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Having had all our remarks on the record, we'll put that aside for the moment so that we can do our list of routine motions for the future work of the committee.

Colleagues, on the issue of meetings in absence of a quorum, it was moved last time that the chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence when quorum is not present, provided that at least three members are present, including two members of the government and one member from the opposition. Is there any debate on that?

Mr. Ovid L. Jackson (Bruce—Grey, Lib.): Mr. Chair, I'd like to move that motion.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: We'll go through these routine proceedings, and if anybody has a question or a suggestion to improve, or whatever, let's hear it before we vote on it.

The next one on the list is opening statements and questioning of witnesses: that the witnesses be given x number of minutes for their opening statement and that during the questioning of witnesses they be allocated whatever minutes for the first questioner of each party and that thereafter so many minutes be allowed to each subsequent questioner, at the discretion of the chair.

This is up for discussion. I see Mr. Guimond, Mr. Fontana, Ms. Meredith, Mr. Bailey, Mr. St-Julien, and Mr. Casey. Mr. Guimond.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: Mr. Chairman, the clerk has informed me that no decision was made as to the order in which members would be permitted to ask questions. We are not dealing here with a routine motion. Do you intend to follow exactly the same procedure as you employed before, when you chaired a committee that I had the good fortune to serve on and where we had some good discussions, or do plan to adopt the approach taken by your predecessor on this committee?

For the benefit of my colleagues who did not sit on the committee that your chaired, I recall that during the first round of questioning, you allotted opposition party members five minutes each for questions, and then moved on to government members. That was the order in which you proceeded for any subsequent rounds. Do you intend to proceed in this manner now?

[English]

The Chairman: Yes, Mr. Guimond, I do. I guess the key words in this motion are “at the discretion of the chair”. In the past—and just for the sake of debate, so that the others can give me their feelings on it—I always felt that when a witness comes before the committee, in most cases they're advanced by a report or a statement that is an inch thick that they've already provided all members of the committee. Some may not have had the opportunity to read over it. That's why we want to hear the witness. But usually we ask the witness to summarize whatever they've brought, or read the whole thing if it falls within a reasonable length of time. So for a witness who comes before this committee, I like to give them between 10 and 15 minutes. You know, give them 12 minutes and tell them they have 12 minutes to give us their statement.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: You're not answering my question.

[English]

The Chairman: Some committees give their witnesses 20 minutes. I think that eats into our time to ask questions. So I like to see summarized in about 12 minutes what it is they want to tell this committee. A good witness can do that in 12 minutes. They're professionals, most of them who come before us. So they've got their 10 to 15 minutes in there. They will provide us with that and then we go to questions.

Initially, I start with the official opposition. The lead-off is five minutes. Now, five minutes is very tight; I understand that. But we have a lot of interest. I'm getting feelings from different committee members that on the issue of the airlines we want to get as many questions in as we can on each witness. We're going to try to do as much work as we can and hear as many witnesses as we can, but we can't do that if we let them go on too long or the questioners go on too long.

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What I'd like to do is keep the committee moving by giving the opposition five minutes, and they go. Then a government member goes for five minutes. Next an opposition member goes for five minutes. Then a government member goes, then an opposition member goes. So it's back and forth.

Then as we get into this thing, sometimes I reverse the order. If you leave it to my discretion, if I see that there is someone who has a supplementary question.... Maybe Mr. Bailey will ask a question and Michel has a supplementary that is the natural question to ask and he's got it and he's ready to go. Then you're going to leave it to the discretion of the chair to allow Mr. Guimond to have a quick supplementary so that he has a chance to dovetail the subject Mr. Bailey has embarked on. You're going to leave some discretion there, but the rule of thumb will be back and forth, five, five, five, etc., so that as many of us as possible can get these questions in.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, that wasn't how you proceeded prior to the 1997 election. When you were chairing the committee in 1996 and 1997, the Official Opposition had five minutes. The Reform Party, which was the third party at the time, then had five minutes, followed by the Liberal members, who also had five minutes. During the second round, the Official Opposition, which was the Bloc Québécois at the time, would have three minutes, followed by the Reform Party with three minutes, and by the Liberals, who also had three minutes. After that, it was a free for all. Anyone who had a question was free to ask it. That's how things worked in 1996 and 1997. You didn't recognize the Official Opposition for five minutes, followed by the Liberal Party for five minutes, the third party for five minutes and back again to the Liberal Party for five minutes.

The Chairman: Right.

Mr. Michel Guimond: You're saying that you don't intend to proceed as you did in 1996 and 1997. Is that in fact what you're saying?

[English]

The Chairman: You may be mistaking me for some other good-looking gentleman. In 1996-97 I was the parliamentary secretary, so I wasn't sitting in the chair; I was over there. I was the chair in 1993-94.

In 1993-94 I did the five minutes a side thing, and maybe the Bloc didn't have a question, so I would skip over the Bloc and go to the next opposition party. Then at the end, after the back and forth and everybody had their five minutes, if I saw that someone else had a question and nobody else had one, sure I went to that individual, at the discretion of the chair.

I think I have—not to be boastful—a pretty good reputation at recognizing members for their questions, even those who sometimes aren't a member of this committee, because the odd time you'll see them walk in. I always make sure, though, that members of the committee have their questions first. Then any visiting members to this committee, because they too are colleagues in the House of Commons, have the opportunity, if time permits, to ask questions.

So again you'll have to leave it to the discretion of the chair. But I'd like to see that business of 10 to 15 minutes for the witness. I like to saw it off at about 12 minutes for their presentation, and then we start with the official opposition for five, government five, Bloc five, government five, Bev five, government five, Casey five, government five. It's pretty fair.

In other committees I've seen the opposition start with five and then two government members have five each and then the next opposition party and then two government members have five each.

We can be as fair as we can about this thing, or we can start getting picky about who goes first and how long they're going to speak. So that's my proposal: twelve, and a rocking five each. Does anybody have a problem with that?

The next person on my list is Mr. Fontana.

Mr. Joe Fontana: I yield my time to Mr. Bailey.

The Chairman: I have Ms. Meredith next on my list.

Mr. Joe Fontana: You said it very well, Mr. Chairman.

Ms. Val Meredith: Mr. Chair, I don't really have a problem with what you're suggesting, as long as the balance is there: that the opposition have at least equal time with the government. I notice that this is quite different from what we're putting down on paper, so we may want to look at the way it's recorded and indicated in the written document.

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The Chairman: We'll draw that up right now, before we vote on it.

Ms. Val Meredith: Okay, but I would hope that this balance will be there.

The Chairman: Yes.

Mr. Bailey is next.

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

I have a suggestion that I'd like you to consider, Mr. Chair and members of this group. I have no argument with the rotation. I think it was fair, and I think this committee benefited from that in the past. I'm going to throw out this suggestion, however, because I've been on other committees, quite a few of them, and I think the mistake I have made—and I'm as guilty as anyone else.... I think what happens, Mr. Chair, is we have a witness come in, and because I only have my five minutes I throw about six or seven questions and they are somewhat unrelated. If we're going to do this and give an opportunity for the free flow, I think we should say to ourselves that we're going to ask a question and a supplement of a particular nature and not throw five or six questions at a witness. The witness in turn, in order to answer my question, robs somebody out of time.

So if as committee members we agree that in order to have this rapid flow of questions going back and forth, so you get your point in.... Put your question as a supplement, he can answer, and then you're back to another person. But what happens so many times when you get a very important witness is that you think “I'm second here, and by God, here are my questions”. I'm guilty of it.

Do you understand what I mean, Mr. Chair?

The Chairman: Mr. Bailey, I remember when I chaired this committee in the past it was completely up to the questioner whatever questions they wanted to ask. So if they decide they are going to ask five or six questions in rapid-fire succession and then sit back and hope the witness can answer them all within the five-minute timeframe, usually I direct the witness and say “Mr. Witness, you've heard the first two questions; that's probably all the time you'll have.” The questioner, when we get back to that individual, can re-ask his last three, because I know, as the chair, there won't be time.

So if an individual wants to try to bootleg in five or six questions in the hope that the witness is going to answer all five or six, they're going to be sadly mistaken at the end of the day.

Mr. Roy Bailey: Mr. Chair, with all due respect, I have seen instances in the past on this committee in particular when somebody does just as I said, and then they become a little bit irate at the chair. What I'm saying is if we could agree as a group that we would pin it down to a question and a supplementary, then you're automatically without any irateness among all the people at this committee. If we would do that, I think we'd establish something of a unique situation on this committee and we would be appreciated by the witnesses.

The Chairman: Thanks very much, Mr. Bailey. The chair thanks you for your cooperation.

Mr. St-Julien was next.

[Translation]

Mr. Guy St-Julien: I have a question concerning the same subject. There's something we should do. I have no problem with being allotted, but I don't think members should put three questions in a row to a witness. The witness should be given time to answer the first question and, if there are three minutes remaining, then the member can put his or her second question. We mustn't ask three questions all at once. I'm guilty of doing that, that is of asking three questions and then moving on to another committee. I think witnesses should be given an opportunity to answer questions right away. If there is any time remaining, then members can put a second question.

[English]

The Chairman: Mr. Casey.

Mr. Bill Casey: I agree with your philosophy of allowing more time for questions than presentations. The information they want us to have from the presentations is not necessarily the information we'd like to have.

I think the time should be allotted. I think there should be five minutes for each questioner and let them use it as they see fit, but when the time's up, time's up.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Casey.

Does the clerk have the rewording here, the new wording? It is that witnesses be given 10 to 12 minutes for their opening statements and that during the questioning of witnesses there be allocated five minutes for the first questioner, starting with the official opposition party and so on, back and forth between opposition and government, and thereafter five minutes be allocated to each subsequent questioner, at the discretion of the chair.

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Mr. Roy Bailey: I so move.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: 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.

An hon. member: So moved.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Witness expenses: 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.

Ms. Val Meredith: I so move.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Transcripts of in camera meetings: that one copy of the transcript of all in camera meetings be kept in the committee clerk's office for consultation.

An hon. member: So moved.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Working lunches: that the committee authorize the chair, from time to time, as the need arises, to take, in conjunction with the clerk of the committee, the appropriate measures to provide lunches for the committee and its subcommittees for working purposes, and that the cost of these lunches be charged to the budget of the committee.

An hon. member: So moved.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: By the way, are we stuck making sure that every time we order a meal for this committee, it has to come from Parliament?

The Clerk: Not at all.

The Chairman: Thank God for that. We're going to start ordering lunch from outside, I think, in a few cases. I think we might even save some money on it.

Distribution of documents: that the clerk of the committee be authorized to distribute submissions in the official language received, with translation to follow as soon as possible.

Ms. Val Meredith: I so move.

The Chairman: Yes, Mr. Guimond.

Mr. Michel Guimond: I have a comment.

[Translation]

Mr. Chairman, I would like the clerk to duly record what I've just said. When a witness doesn't have documents in both languages, I don't want to be bad guy who prevents that witness from tabling them. That has happened several times in the past. I'm not blaming our clerk, who does her best, but I don't want her asking me whether I mind if the witness tables his document in English only. I want us to be perfectly clear on this point. In an effort to convince Quebeckers, Canadians are always saying that we have the best country in the world, a bilingual country to boot where people are entitled to express themselves in either of Canada's two languages. Well then, if this is a bilingual country, then witnesses should be submitting their briefs to us in both languages.

I vividly recall one company with annual sales of several billion, namely Canadian Pacific, which wasn't able to provide the committee with a brief in both languages. When that happens, I'm the one who has to act as censor and inform the witness that he cannot table his brief. I don't want to have that happen to me again. I don't want to act as Canada's Official Languages Act watchdog.

It must be clearly understood that the clerk cannot allow witnesses to table documents that are not available in both languages.

[English]

The Chairman: Mr. Guimond, I don't have a single problem with what you're saying. In fact I want to change this thing. Instead of saying “to distribute submissions in the official languages, with translation to follow as soon as possible”, I think what we have to say here is that “the clerk of the committee be authorized to distribute submissions in both official languages”, period.

[Translation]

Mr. Guy St-Julien: I agree, "in both official languages".

[English]

The Chairman: Now, let's look at the ramifications of that before we vote.

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I don't think there's a company in the world that can't have their documents ready to present to this committee in both official languages. Where I have a concern is what happens if you have an individual from Thunder Bay who has something of value to contribute to the committee but they don't have the resources to have this document completed in both official languages? It's our duty to translate it for them.

What do you think, Mr. Guimond?

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: I have a solution to that problem. The witnesses should be instructed to submit their briefs to the clerk in advance of their appearance and the clerk should make the necessary arrangements to have them translated. However, we can't have the translation service telling the clerk that it is snowed under and has no time to translate these briefs. There are resources available. The Canadian public pays high taxes. If Canada is supposed to be an officially bilingual country, then we must find the necessary resources. We can get these documents translated by private firms in the city.

[English]

The Chairman: So the message I'm receiving here is that the clerk, when asking a witness to appear, will instruct the witness to make sure they have their document for the committee ready in both official languages.

The Clerk: Or they don't appear.

The Chairman: Or they don't appear with their document. They'll just have to speak in the official language and we won't have documents at all. They won't be distributed unless they're in both official languages.

If she's calling a witness who may have a problem with that, she's going to make sure that witness knows that they'd better make sure we have an advance copy of that so we can have it translated so that when they do appear it's distributed in both official languages.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: Mr. Chairman, I understand what you're saying. If the committee holds hearings in Kamloops or in Port- Joli, the average citizen is not about to spend $800 to have his brief translated. However, the clerk can instruct him to forward his brief for translation prior to the hearing. That's why citizens pay taxes. We have translation services on the hill who will see to it that committee members get the documents in both official languages.

Mr. Guy St-Julien: I agree with you.

[English]

The Chairman: So is everybody in favour of the motion that the clerk of the committee be authorized to distribute submissions in both official languages?

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Steering committee: that the chair and two vice-chairs do compose a subcommittee on agenda and procedure.

Colleagues, in the past I've always held our steering committees as committee of the whole. I think that the direction of the committee.... I don't know why all of a sudden.... I know sometimes it's for convenience, but at the end of the day it always comes back to the full committee anyway. At the end of the day, it's only sort of an advisory from those who were on the steering committee that they feel they should proceed with this particular agenda, and then it's all discussed here anyway. So I would like to not even have a steering committee and just know that if we are going to plan an agenda, it's going to be planned as a committee of the whole, where we all have chance for input and we all have a discussion on the business of the committee.

Mr. Bill Casey: Are you withdrawing the motion?

The Chairman: No. We just don't need to put a steering committee motion in. Is that okay with everybody? Mr. Bailey?

Mr. Roy Bailey: Mr. Chairman, I agree with that. On the other hand, I recognize the flexibility of the chair, that should something arise you could ask for three volunteers just before a meeting to bring something up and so on, without having a steering committee. But to name a steering committee just for the sake of having one, we haven't used it in the past—

The Chairman: I'd rather use the whole committee on that.

Mr. Roy Bailey: Yes, I agree.

The Chairman: Next is that the clerk circulate to all members of the committee Order-in-Council appointments referred to the Standing Committee on Transport.

An. hon. member: So moved.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Colleagues, given the agenda that may be before us, depending on what you decide upon, I think it would be valuable that this committee meet in Room 253-D, which is the televised committee room. In particular, one issue I'm thinking of that we'll put forward on this thing is of course the airline issue. I would like to have this committee meet in the televised committee room, because it touches on so many people in the industry. I don't have to go down the list of how many people it touches. Do I have your permission to go to the office and ask for that?

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Mr. Guy St-Julien: Agreed.

The Clerk: If we don't have 253-D, because the finance committee usually has priority, we have to go to the House and ask for a motion to be in 237-C.

The Chairman: So we can prepare. You've got the go-ahead from the committee on televised committee work.

The Clerk: Yes.

The Chairman: Great.

Mr. Stan Dromisky: We need a makeup artist.

The Chairman: Stan Dromisky wants makeup and hair.

What's the budget one?

The Clerk: The budget one—do we need $20,000 or do we need $60,000 when we travel...?

The Chairman: For what?

The Clerk: For the study.

The Chairman: Oh, no. We don't know about that yet.

The Clerk: Exactly.

The Chairman: First we have to determine what we're going to do, and then we'll decide whether we need a.... Do we get the $5,000 automatically for french fries and all that?

The Clerk: Yes.

The Chairman: All right, we'll do that later.

The Clerk: We're done with the routine.

The Chairman: We're done with routine motions, colleagues.

Mr. Michel Guimond: I think we have another one.

[Translation]

I think we should adopt another routine motion. We adopted one such motion on October 27, 1998 concerning the time slots for committee meetings. These differed from the schedule proposed by the House. We agreed that the committee would meet on Tuesdays and Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. I have a copy of the motion here.

[English]

The Clerk: You have to decide.

The Chairman: I see. We can do that now.

Colleagues, I think we can agree that Mondays and Fridays are out—unless, of course, we know that we're all going to be here on a Monday. For example, I'm sure all the whips have already informed the parties that there is going to be a vote on Monday at 6:30. I think at the discretion of the chair, he can put forward a suggestion. I don't want to get into discussing it now, but the whips have informed us that there is a likelihood of a vote at 6:30 on this coming Monday. Well, that means we're all going to be here Monday afternoon, I would expect. That being the case, I would ask the committee if it would like to meet on Monday afternoon, 3:30 to 6:30, to deal with future business of the committee, etc.

If the committee members say they can't make it, and if I don't have any people here, then of course that's it; we won't have it. I just want to make sure that the latitude is there so that at least I can ask. I think the standard is—and if you want a motion to that effect, Michel, we can have it—Tuesday morning and afternoon, Wednesday afternoon, Thursday morning, and, if necessary, evening meetings on those three days. But there are going to be times when there is going to have to be some latitude, some flexibility on that as well. If we come up to an issue where time is of the essence, we're going to want to meet as quickly as we can to deal with issues. We won't get any work done if we're going to have a motion that says we're meeting only on Tuesday and Thursday.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: Mr. Chairman, perhaps the clerk could refresh your memory. You're talking about an exceptional circumstance. If we have to be here for 6:30 p.m. on a Monday evening, we could meet Monday afternoon. There is nothing to stop us from doing that. If there is a certain amount of work to be done and we decide to tackle this as one committee, rather than split up into two sub-groups to review a specific piece of legislation, there is nothing to stop us from meeting on a Thursday morning. We decided to slot meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays since the House had not scheduled us for these days. We could agree to meet on a priority basis on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m., but reserve the right to meet on Monday afternoons or Thursday mornings or in the evening.

[English]

The Chairman: Okay. I see the agenda.

So how does Tuesday morning and afternoon, Wednesday afternoon, and Thursday morning sound as the sort of permanent slot times that we're going to suggest to the whip? Does anyone have a...?

Mr. Guy St-Julien: Saturday and Sunday, you say?

The Chairman: And no holidays.

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Mr. Calder.

Mr. Murray Calder (Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, Lib.): Some of us sit on other committees. I, for one, sit on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. Agriculture usually meets on Tuesday mornings and Thursday mornings.

The Chairman: Those conflicts are going to have to be worked out by individual members, and your office will call in a substitute. There's a list of individuals who are alternates to this committee, so your staff can get the list of alternates and you can make sure somebody is here.

Mr. Murray Calder: But the thing is that normally in the past, in the last session, we were meeting on Tuesday afternoons and Thursday afternoons, and now you're changing that. I'm wondering whether or not there's a possibility of the chairs of the different committees sitting down and saying “This is when ours sits”, etc. Some of the Liberal members.... I myself sit on three committees. I sit on agriculture, on transport, and on international trade.

An hon. member: You could average your time....

Mr. Murray Calder: I know, but I do it anyway. They are all interconnected.

The Chairman: Let the record show that Murray Calder works hard for his constituents.

Mr. Murray Calder: God bless you!

The Chairman: But we do have alternates, Murray, so we're going to have to dip into the alternates. My experience in the past is that as soon as you start giving up slots for others, the others take over anyway.

Mr. Murray Calder: But you're changing your slots right now. I want that pointed out.

The Chairman: Yes, we are. The suggestion is that we change these slots to what is put forward in the motion.

Does anyone else want to speak on it before we vote?

(Motion agreed to)

Ms. Val Meredith: Can I make one more motion, Mr. Chair?

The Chairman: Sure.

Ms. Val Meredith: I'd like to move that there be no in camera meetings set by the chair without an agreement by the committee, with a two-thirds majority in support.

The Chairman: Could I have input on that, please? Mr. Fontana.

Mr. Joe Fontana: First of all, Mr Chair, the rule...not the rule per se, but I think one would want to prevent in camera meetings if at all possible. A lot of us have indicated that the public is better served when all of the meetings can be held in public. But I think from time to time there will be a necessity, depending on the issue. One should also take into account being considerate of the witnesses, who may or may not have certain requirements or needs, privileged information that we may ask of them. So I think we ought to deal with it on an ad hoc basis. The rule ought to be that it be fully public unless there's a request from the committee and/or witnesses to go in camera.

So I have no objection to that, but I do have an objection to the two-thirds threshold. I'm just wondering why that is. A simple majority carries a vote on an important motion. Why all of a sudden are we talking about two-thirds just for going in camera? If 50% plus one is good enough to pass a bill, I'm just wondering where this two-thirds comes from in terms of in camera sittings.

Ms. Val Meredith: To respond to that, Mr. Chair, I think the concern is the leakage. If the majority of the committee agree that it should be an in camera session, then surely the majority of the people will respect what an in camera session means and there won't be a leakage of documents and a lack of respect for the position of the committee.

Mr. Joe Fontana: But that's a different issue, Val, and I'm happy you brought it up. Some of us sat on the procedure and House affairs committee last session, and we had to deal with an awful lot of so-called in camera meetings that in fact were on the front page of the newspapers the next day, leaked by both sides of the aisle, for whatever reason. Obviously that's something we can't condone. If we're going to have respect for one another and someone has asked us, in privilege and in camera, to keep something confidential, I think.... There are now sanctions, and if I'm not mistaken, the procedure and House affairs committee, in order to deal with this whole question of leaking of private and confidential reports.... There are sanctions that in fact can be brought to bear on members. I think it's a disservice not only to ourselves but to the country if in fact someone on either side is going around leaking documents that don't serve the public interest.

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I think that's a different issue, and I'm not sure the two-thirds vote is ever going to stop some person, even voting in the majority to keep things public, from leaking the thing. What it comes down to is the individual responsibility that they have. I'm not sure the two-thirds vote is going to prevent that. We're going to have to rely on the integrity of individual members to keep what in fact is in camera, and is supposed to be confidential, in camera.

The Chairman: Val, do you want to amend that motion, or do you want to vote on it?

Ms. Val Meredith: I would amend it to drop the two-thirds majority.

The Chairman: So it will read what, then?

Mr. Roy Bailey: Can I make a comment, Mr. Chairman?

The Chairman: I'm going to let Val....

Ms. Val Meredith: Okay. I amend it to say that no in camera meeting shall occur without a vote by the committee in an open meeting.

Mr. Ovid Jackson: Can I speak to the motion, Mr. Chair?

The Chairman: Not too long, because I know there's a bunch of people in the committee who.... We said we'd be here from 11 o'clock to 12 o'clock, and they made noon commitments. So very quickly, Mr. Bailey, then Mr. Jackson.

Mr. Roy Bailey: Just a clarification of what Joe said. The motion that came from the standing committee was never passed, was it? It's not outstanding. But you made a good point, and yes, I hope we don't have any members on this committee who would do the unprofessional thing.

The Chairman: No. Mr. Jackson.

Mr. Ovid Jackson: Mr. Chairman, as far as I'm concerned, I will judge this committee when we are finished our work and we have our report on whether or not we did a good job or a bad job, or we didn't do anything like that. I can imagine what's going to happen. I think that's not on. I don't think we need any forces such as Val has moved. I think when it comes to personnel and property, fine, if you keep it all open, then there are no secrets. The problem in today's world is that if you have more than one person, the information will get out. So you might as well have it open, except for when you're dealing with those two problems. Other than that, forget it.

The Chairman: Okay. I don't want to begin a debate here on the whole matter that Mr. Fontana brought up. It's just for this committee's work. I know, for example—

Mr. Ovid Jackson: Except for those instances, you have to.

The Chairman: Yes, Mr. Jackson, there are times when this committee may want to hear a witness, but the witness has a problem with being open, so I think there will be times when we have to discuss whether or not we go in camera. As suggested by the mover, we'll take a vote on that and decide at that time, witness by witness.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chairman: Colleagues, I guess the only thing left to decide is when we are next going to meet.

Mr. Joe Fontana: Monday at 3:30.

The Chairman: Is Monday at 3:30 a problem for anyone, since we're going to be here anyway? Okay, so it's Monday at 3:30, colleagues. Thanks.

Future business is in camera, of course, right? Isn't that great? The first thing we do is meet in camera. Yes, future business of the committee—we'll do that in camera.

Thank you, colleagues. The meeting is over.