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37th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION

Standing Committee on Finance


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Tuesday, April 27, 2004




¹ 1535
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola (Vaudreuil—Soulanges, Lib.))
V         Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, PC)
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance)

¹ 1540
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg

¹ 1545
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna, CPC)
V         Hon. John McKay

¹ 1550
V         Mr. Sean Keenan (Chief, Equalization and Policy Development, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance)
V         Mr. Werner Schmidt
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Werner Schmidt
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Sean Keenan
V         Mr. Werner Schmidt
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ)
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Pierre Paquette
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)

¹ 1555
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Glenn Campbell (Chief, CHST and Policy Development, Federal-Provincial Relations Division, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance)
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Mr. Glenn Campbell
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Mr. Glenn Campbell
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Mr. Glenn Campbell
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Mr. Glenn Campbell
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Monte Solberg

º 1600
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Peter DeVries (Director, Assistant Deputy Minister's Office, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance)
V         Mr. Monte Solberg

º 1605
V         Mr. Peter DeVries
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         Mr. Gary Pillitteri (Niagara Falls, Lib.)
V         Hon. John McKay
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Pierre Paquette
V         Mr. Massimo Pacetti (Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, Lib.)
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Hon. John McKay
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Werner Schmidt
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)

º 1610
V         Mr. Hamid Algabid (Parliamentary Delegation from Nigeria)
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)
V         Mr. Monte Solberg
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)

º 1615
V         Mr. Gary Pillitteri
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola)










CANADA

Standing Committee on Finance


NUMBER 017 
l
3rd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

¹  +(1535)  

[Translation]

+

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola (Vaudreuil—Soulanges, Lib.)): Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, April 21, 2004, we will now consider Bill C-30, an Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004. On today's agenda is the clause-by-clause study.

[English]

    Monsieur Solberg, you were telling me that you had some questions, and you started with clause 2. Do you have an idea which other clauses...?

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, PC): Yes.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): If you could just give them to me, then maybe we could ease the discussion a little further.

    (On clause 2)

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: I guess the first question I have has to do with the equalization formula, referring here to clause 2.

    In part 1 of the briefing document, on page 1 in the explanatory notes, there is a reference to the introduction of a moving average. This is sort of a new concept to me anyway, but I'm wondering why the government has taken the position that they aren't going to either remove non-renewable resources from the formula or go to a ten-province formula and instead are moving to this moving average.

    As I read through the document, it's clear that the government is trying to stick some band-aids on this by throwing some money to some of the provinces that are hit the hardest, like Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia, in various ways, but why has there been no attempt to move toward a formula that I think everyone agrees would be certainly more representative than a five-province formula, which would be the ten-province formula, which would be completely representative?

    Secondly, on the non-renewable resource issue, I think everybody understands that if you have non-renewable resources that are being factored in, those are eventually going to be depleted. But because of the tremendously hard clawback, you don't get a chance to build up those reserves that allow you to have infrastructure and those kinds of things you need after your natural resources are gone. What is the answer to that?

+-

    Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance): On the first question, with respect to the moving average, if there was one consistent theme from all of the finance ministers and their representatives on this particular issue, it was that they wanted some certainty in their fiscal frameworks. Without the moving average, they knew in general terms what they were going to get on an annual basis, but it left them some difficulty as to what the ultimate numbers might be. So by moving to the average, you actually smoothed out the amount that any given province might give in any given year. By doing this, you in effect enhance fiscal certainty. So that's actually quite directly responsive to all of the Ministers of Finance in the various provinces.

    As to whatever formula, I doubt there will ever be a formula known to mankind that would make everybody happy. It's almost impossible because you have 10 separate provinces, all of whom have 10 separate sets of interests, some of which are contradictory, and you have a federal government that has to stay within a certain fiscal framework. The idea of equalization is to minimize and reduce fiscal disparities. Over the course of this program, something in the order of 20 years, the fiscal disparities actually have been reduced.

    The third point has to do with the average going up and the average going down. Whatever formula you pick--suppose you picked the most ideal formula that all the provinces could agree on, assuming some agreement could be reached--regardless, the formula goes up and goes down according to the GDP.

    Last year, our GDP shrunk. As a consequence, revenues to the federal government shrunk. As a consequence, revenues for the receiving provinces shrunk as well. The guts of the average, whether it's a five- or ten-province average, is that if Ontario has a lousy year, everybody has a lousy year. So that's kind of the reality of having one province with 45% of the gross domestic product.

¹  +-(1540)  

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: I won't say there's consensus, but I think there's a lot of support for the 10-province formula. One of the reasons for that, of course, is that it would mean more money coming into these provinces in total. In a way that makes a lot of sense, because the way the system works now is that if there's a shortfall, the federal government jumps in and provides more funding. My sense is that the provinces are completely on the right track in asking for transfers of cash to be made via equalization instead of doing it sort of ad hoc along the way. Whether that money is through some kind of agreement like the health and social transfer or whatever, if you have a base that's a little higher through equalization and there are fewer strings attached, then obviously you wouldn't have to make as big a transfer in other areas. I think a lot of people would agree that it would be a lot cleaner and simpler if most of the money that gets transferred to the provinces is done through equalization, and although the government doesn't get as much political credit for it, that's really not the point, is it? The point is to make sure there is a stream of income the provinces can rely on to ensure roughly equal services.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: The cost of moving from a five-province average to a 10-province average is in the order of about $4 billion on an annual basis.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: Right.

¹  +-(1545)  

+-

    Hon. John McKay: And $4 billion doesn't grow on trees, so it's going to have to come out of something. The question is, what is it going to come out of? You have to set that against the obligations under the Constitution of the federal government, and the obligation of the federal government is to reduce fiscal disparities. In fact, under the five-province average over the last number of years, those fiscal disparities have been reduced.

    So on a five-province standard, the goal of the program is being achieved. I think that is your complete answer.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: But for some provinces it's not being achieved. Saskatchewan gets hammered very hard by the current formula. Newfoundland is seeing something like, I forget the figures, but I think Premier Williams has said that Newfoundland had received about $14 billion in revenues in the last four years and received only about $300 million in net benefits. This has to do with the natural resource clawback.

    But in the current system there are some big flaws, and it seems the government has backed away from making these big changes for some reason that's not clear to me. But it's pretty clear to me that if these changes were made, it would help alleviate some of the concerns the provinces have and maybe ensure that we have better federal-provincial relations than we've had in a long time.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: If life were that simple.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: But I think these are legitimate concerns. In terms of Newfoundland, that's a tremendous amount of money they've lost because of the equalization formula.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: The first point is that on any formula you're going to have to have one-off solutions, because the formula will throw up anomalies over the course of the five-year agreement period, which creates difficulties. Saskatchewan is a classic example. The way the formula worked created an egregious result for the province of Saskatchewan, largely based upon their crown leases--the crown leases generated way more revenues than they had anticipated when they signed the crown leases in the first place.

    I don't think there's going to be any formula that will make anybody completely happy in this sort of thing, and the federal government has shown a tremendous amount of flexibility in trying to address specific issues as they arise.

    With respect to Newfoundland, there are the Newfoundland offshore accords, so for every dollar recognized, they get, if you will, a 70¢ debit. That has still created a certain set of anomalies, so the federal government has responded by saying if you don't like that, under the Newfoundland accords, then on an annual basis you get to have a generic solution. So you can have it one way or you can have it another. It's your choice. You pick what's better for you.

    This is a basket of 33 individual items on fiscal capacity, four of which are, if you will, the big daddies, and the other 29 are in the one basket. It's always going to be asymmetrical.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: I won't belabour this, but I simply have to make one final point that it's not a question of whether or not there are going to be anomalies. You're right that every formula has anomalies, but at the end of the day it's whether or not provinces are being treated fairly.

    Under the system as it is today, some provinces simply aren't being treated fairly. I would just assert that Saskatchewan is certainly one of them. It is a have-not province. Its infrastructure is in terrible shape, and it needs some changes to this formula. I would argue the same thing ultimately for Newfoundland.

    I know the government has tried to band-aid some of these problems, but we need long-term solutions. There is a solution at hand, and I regret that the government has different priorities. I understand it's $4 billion a year, but we're seeing that surpluses are being rounded up. If this were phased in over a period of time it would be achievable.

    I'll just leave it at that.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: My final point is that the formula is enhanced to the tune of about $150 million a year, and over the course of this agreement I think it will be enriched by $1.5 billion.

    Some of the more egregious anomalies have been addressed.... So it looks like you and I are not going to agree.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Are there any other questions, Mr. Solberg?

    Mr. Schmidt.

+-

    Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna, CPC): I have one question on the equalization program as well. It refers to the same question I asked the other day on the real market value of real estate, particularly as it applies to British Columbia. I really like the general approach here, but the answer I didn't get last time, which I would like to ask for again, is what actual adjustment will be made specifically for British Columbia? There was a tiny little sentence in there that said there would be some adjustment, in particular to British Columbia and its real estate values.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: As you well know, the real estate values in British Columbia are very high, but the problem is that in some respects British Columbia is asset rich and income poor. From British Columbia's standpoint, it doesn't want that real property included in the formula for measuring fiscal capacity. But then it says, “But if you're going to put it in, at least show how much revenue we're generating from it, which is not very much above or below the averages of the other provinces.”

    On the other hand, Quebec's view is entirely the opposite. Quebec says to put the property in but don't count the revenues it generates. That kind of gives you a classic illustration of the difficulties the federal government faces in trying to “be fair” to all of the provinces.

    I don't know whether my equalization colleagues want to add to that response, but I think that's it in general terms.

    In order to sort of cushion the shock, the budget proposes a 50% ease-in period, in recognition of the extraordinarily high value of real estate, particularly in the Vancouver area.

    Is there anything you want to add, Sean?

¹  +-(1550)  

+-

    Mr. Sean Keenan (Chief, Equalization and Policy Development, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance): On the adjustment that's being made, we're using market values, residential property values, for all provinces, and taking 70% of the differences across provinces to make our base. For British Columbia we'll be using 50% of its property values, which is a lower amount considering its high residential property values. As Mr. McKay said, the new base will be used at a 50% rate for the five-year period, and the existing base will stay in place for 50% of the weight for the next five years.

+-

    Mr. Werner Schmidt: I have another question that moves into the completely different area of comprehensive revenue. Some of the provinces have indicated that perhaps it would be better if the government went to a comprehensive statement of all their revenues. I think you've taken the five big ones and lumped all the others together.

    Does the other include all the other revenues that the provinces collect in their fiscal capabilities?

+-

    Hon. John McKay: Currently that is the way the formula works in the four big ones and the fifth. I don't know of an intellectually compelling argument that would create more categories rather than fewer categories.

+-

    Mr. Werner Schmidt: I was reflecting a political argument.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: Yes. The right thing to do and the political thing to do may be two different ideas.

    Do you have any response on that?

+-

    Mr. Sean Keenan: The program tries to cover as large a pool of provincial revenues as possible. Right now we equalize $196 billion worth of provincial and municipal revenues in 33 different revenue sources. There are instances where the provinces disagree with the way we handle some of them, but we certainly have very comprehensive revenue coverage from all the major sources of revenue where disparities are created.

+-

    Mr. Werner Schmidt: I'm done.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Thank you.

    Are there any other questions? Mr. Paquette? No.

    Since there are no other questions on clauses 2 to 44--

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: No.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): I asked if there were any questions. What's your next clause then?

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: It's on clause 7.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): All right.

    Can I have a motion to adopt clauses 2 to 6?

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ): I'm opposed.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): You oppose the motion?

+-

    Mr. Pierre Paquette: No, I'm opposed to clauses 2 to 6. I want to make my position clear before we proceed with the vote.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): I see.

[English]

    There is a motion on the floor.

    (Clauses 2 to 6 inclusive agreed to on division)

    (On clause 7—Payments to trust—immunization and public health)

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): On clause 7, please, Mr. Solberg.

¹  +-(1555)  

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: This has to do with payments to the provinces for the national immunization strategy.

    Why is this money in a trust?

+-

    Hon. John McKay: It is in a trust because individual provinces will draw on the national immunization strategy in accordance with their abilities to use it properly. Some provinces are probably quite up to speed and ready to draw on the trust, and others may not be.

    I think that's the response. Is that a fair analysis? Okay.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: How do you determine when to put money into a trust for something like this and when to just pay this money out through the general revenues over a several-year period?

+-

    Hon. John McKay: Rather than speculate in answering this, I'll ask Mr. Campbell.

+-

    Mr. Glenn Campbell (Chief, CHST and Policy Development, Federal-Provincial Relations Division, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance): As you know, the government has made the choice over the past few years to increase base funding for health care through the Canada health and social transfer. From time to time it has also put additional funding in trust vehicles for both health and other areas, such as medical equipment. This serves a twofold purpose and is flexible. It allows the Government of Canada to account for the funding in a particular year, whereas provinces typically have different preferences as to how they would like to take revenue on stream and book it.

    A trust fund essentially allows the federal government to put the money into a third-party financial intermediary--a chartered bank in Canada--and at the same time, provinces get to choose the rate at which they want to draw down that funding over a specific period of time, in keeping with the policy it's designed to support.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: Why wouldn't you just hand them over their entire portion and allow them to draw it down themselves, as they see fit? How would you have any more control through a trust than through handing it over to them directly?

+-

    Mr. Glenn Campbell: In the year in which the federal government accounts for the funding and pays it to the trust, all the money effectively becomes the ownership of the provinces and territories. Using a third-party vehicle allows flexibility in how provinces bring it onto their books. So this is really a provincial matter.

    Provinces that have money held in trust can draw down the funding at different rates. If we handed it over like a transfer payment, that would force some provinces to spend all the money immediately, which is not in keeping with the policy objective.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: Force them to? I don't follow you.

+-

    Mr. Glenn Campbell: Under accounting rules, if they were receiving funding in one year, effectively, they would have to account for 100% of that money in the year in which it was transferred, if it was a direct transfer payment. Under a trust fund vehicle, provincial auditors general allow provinces, according to their respective priorities and practices, to account for the funds in different ways.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: Does our federal Auditor General have access to this trust? Can she go and audit the trust to make sure everything is being done correctly?

+-

    Mr. Glenn Campbell: The Auditor General has access to the funds as they flow into the trust. The Auditor General has the authority to make sure the payment was made to that entity. Once it's in the trust, it is provincial auditors general who are responsible for the money, which is effectively provincially controlled.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: So they are basically managing the money once it goes into the trust.

+-

    Mr. Glenn Campbell: It is their money once it goes into trust. It is irrevocable, from the Government of Canada's point of view, when it goes into the trust.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Are there any other questions on clause 7? Do you have questions on any other clauses between 7 and 44?

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: I'm afraid I have another one, on clause 25.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Before we get to that, could I have a motion to adopt clauses 7 to 24, please?

    (Clauses 7 to 24 inclusive agreed to on division)

    (On clause 25)

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Mr. Solberg.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: I bet you can guess what I'm going to ask about. Under this legislation the EI Act will be amended to provide the governor in council with the authority to set the premium rate for 2005. I know in your Qs and As you addressed the issue of how the EI rate is set, but this is a controversial issue.

    People are more than a little upset about the fact that the government has moved away from an independent body to help them set the rates for EI. Really, this seems to be contrary to the spirit of what the former finance minister, John Manley, said in his budget documents of 2003, that they were going to gather input, and they would have a new mechanism for determining EI rates by 2005. What we have here is the government saying they are going to do this via governor in council. Why is that? People are, I think rightly, concerned that the government is being very subjective about how they set rates to benefit them politically, so that they have this extra revenue coming in that has nothing to do, in the end, with ensuring workers have proper benefits and those kinds of things. Please explain that.

º  +-(1600)  

+-

    Hon. John McKay: Workers do in fact have proper benefits within the meaning of the legislation, so that's not the issue here.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: I think you're twisting what I said, John. What I'm saying is that there is more than enough money coming in to cover workers' benefits. This money is simply going into general revenues. The Auditor General has taken issue with that, as you know. I want to know why you are continuing this practice.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: At $1.98, there is enough revenue coming into the notional fund to cover the anticipated payouts from that fund. So we're in a stasis position. As you know, the government changed in December, and the previous minister--

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: The government didn't change; it was an elaborate cabinet shuffle.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: The administration changed, shall we say. Discussions were going on with respect to putting an arm's-length body in place. That discussion had not reached sufficient fruition by the time of the presentation of this budget, so the government made the decision that it would extend for one further year its ability to set rates by order in council, until it got the arm's-length entity right.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: What assurance do we have that the government is not going to simply set the rate above where the actuary says it should be set, so that they have extra revenues coming in to spend in whatever way they want?

+-

    Hon. John McKay: The Government of Canada at this point is committed to a stasis position. Can I try to predict the future? I can't give an undertaking, nor can anyone else. The position for this budget, in the year 2004-2005, is that the $1.98 rate will basically cover off the costs of the program. That's as far as anyone can predict. There is some general undertaking that they intend to move in that direction, but beyond that...? It's not in the legislation.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: I want to challenge that, though. How do you know, or where does the information come from, that says $1.98 is the steady-state rate.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: I think there is an actuarial work-up.

    Is there someone who could respond on that?

+-

    Mr. Peter DeVries (Director, Assistant Deputy Minister's Office, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance): Based on the economic assumptions in the 2004 budget, and based on the payout of employment insurance benefits plus program administration costs, we've calculated how much revenue is required, and it would require an employee premium rate of $1.98.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: This includes, of course, coverage of all the new benefits, right?

º  +-(1605)  

+-

    Mr. Peter DeVries: It includes all the benefits that are currently under the act, yes.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: All those extra benefits?

+-

    Hon. John McKay: Do you want to run on a platform to repeal the maternity benefits?

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: I'm just looking at my friend Gary Pillitteri over there. I don't know about me, but I'm wondering about Gary.

+-

    Mr. Gary Pillitteri (Niagara Falls, Lib.): I'm not running

+-

    Hon. John McKay: I doubt that Gary will be claiming on those benefits.

+-

    Mr. Monte Solberg: I understand what's happening; I guess most of us do. At any rate, I hope the record will note that we're not happy about the government basically breaking its promise to find a new mechanism to set these rates.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Duly noted.

    Do you have any other questions? Does anyone else have questions on clause 25.

    What is your next clause?

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Pierre Paquette: I want to tell you why I'm abstaining.

[English]

+-

    Mr. Massimo Pacetti (Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, Lib.): I suppose we could go to clause 45?

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): He might have another clause.

    Are there any other clauses up to 44?

    Could I get proposals on the floor to adopt, on division, clauses 25 to 44?

    (Clauses 25 to 44 inclusive agreed to on division)

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Thank you.

    I would like to group clauses 45 to 50. Clauses 45 to 50 are government amendments essentially just correcting the French version of the English text. That's the essence of them. If there are any questions on any of those clauses, I would entertain them now.

    Are there none? Can we adopt clauses 45 to 50, as amended, on division?

    Can we adopt the amendments first?

    (Amendments agreed to on division [See Minutes of Proceedings])

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Thank you.

    Can we adopt clauses 45 to 50, as amended, on division?

    (Clauses 45 to 50 inclusive as amended agreed to on division [See Minutes of Proceedings])

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Thank you.

    Shall the short title carry?

    Some hon. members: On division.

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Shall the long title carry?

    Some hon. members: On division.

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola) Shall the bill carry?

    Some hon. members: On division.

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola) Shall the chair report the bill to the House?

    Some hon. members: On division.

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Mr. McKay.

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    Hon. John McKay: If I may assume that we have finished with clause-by-clause, on behalf of the minister I want to thank the extraordinary men and women who staff the finance department.

    I have only been with the department for about four and a half months. Uniformly, we in Canada are well served by those in the finance department. It has an extraordinary set of men and women. I know from time to time we don't always appreciate them. I just wanted to put on the record my appreciation and that of the minister.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): The chair, and I'm sure the rest of the committee members, agree with you, Mr. McKay. We'd like to thank them also.

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    Mr. Werner Schmidt: If we're going to give accolades, I'd like to add a different one, which has to do with the briefing book. I've been on a variety of committees, and I think this is the best briefing book I've received on a bill.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): It's very well done, I agree.

    Thank you.

    The officials are free to go.

    I'd ask the committee members to stay. We have one more item on the agenda. And while we're waiting for the officials to leave, I'd like to....

[Translation]

    It is my pleasure to welcome to these proceedings a ten-person delegation comprised of four representatives of various commissions examining poverty-related issues, four representatives of various finance commissions and two other officials. The delegation is headed by the former Prime Minister, the Honourable Hamid Algabid. Welcome.

    The delegates are here on a one-week visit to meet with various MPs and to learn how our committee works. We wish them a very productive visit and a very pleasant stay here in Canada. Welcome, and thank you very much.

º  +-(1610)  

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    Mr. Hamid Algabid (Parliamentary Delegation from Nigeria): Thank you. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking part in this all-too-brief meeting.

    We have learned many things since our arrival here . Our system is based on the French one, while yours in rooted in British tradition. However, while there are differences between the two systems, I believe that our goals are the same. We have benefited from our time here and we will certainly put the experience gained to good use when we return home with the hope of improving the way we do business.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): Thank you and have a safe trip back to Niger.

[English]

    We also have to adopt a report of the subcommittee that met last Thursday. In preparing for our public hearings this fall, the committee had to pick two weeks whereby the committee would travel either east or west over a two-week period. While we're in some of these cities, we are also holding two town hall meetings, in an experiment with CPAC...as well as the travel involved. We have to approve the budget so that we can get approval from the liaison committee and the clerk can then make the necessary arrangements.

    We have the three budgets here. The western travel budget is $184,134. To travel out east it is $143,534. For the town hall meetings, the witness registration, as well as the production of the reports, it is $107,500, for a total cost of $435,168.

    Are there any other questions?

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    Mr. Monte Solberg: Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry I missed the meeting the other day.

    How do those budgets compare with previous budgets? Do we know?

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): It's the same except for the town hall meetings. The travel that was indicated would take place during the last two weeks of October of this year. We're going to St. John's versus Saint John. Therefore, it's more expensive this year than in other years, Mr. Solberg.

    Can I have a motion to approve the budget?

º  -(1615)  

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    Mr. Gary Pillitteri: I so move.

    (Motion agreed to)

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Nick Discepola): In the report there is a letter that the chair will be forwarding to all potential witnesses. We are asking them to undertake for the first time this year to cost out their proposals to the committee. We're also indicating that assistance from the parliamentary staff is available to them should they not be able to cost out their proposals. Those of you who have been here as long as Mr. Pillitteri and I know that many people come here with a wish list and never really think it out. So I think it's a great exercise for them to do. You have a copy of that letter, which was approved. That will be going out, as well as the notices on websites, etc.

    Thank you, gentlemen.

    The meeting is adjourned.