I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to this bill. I'm here in my capacity as an independent journalist winding up a laborious book on lobbyists, specifically consultant lobbyists. Its main title is The Hired Guns. It's published by Penguin Books Canada Limited. In my career I've also been a lobbyist.
I'm not here to promote my book but to make a few comments based on many years of researching and interviewing the three points of a lobbying triangle: lobbyists, clients of lobbyists, and the people lobbied--public office holders.
I have some proposed changes to this bill. I will review these very soon.
I'd first like to make some general comments. My general feeling about the bill is that it is too extreme in its solutions, while at the same time ignoring other larger issues of which lobbying is symptomatic.
My feeling is that lobbyists are a legitimate part of the system but that they're at the line beyond which their activities are questionable. That line varies for everybody. I assure you, they often go beyond that line in many ways. One place to draw the line is when they aren't selling their expertise but rather their relationships.
I have a few comments about the three points of the lobbying triangle. First, lobbyists provide substance and access in varying proportions. Some most certainly are door-openers, some are very political, and some have never set foot in a political campaign but lobby with considerable expertise.
The second point is clients. If you talk to the thousands of organizations and companies that hire lobbyists, as I have over the last four years, you will hear how grateful they were to have help with the labyrinth that they say is Ottawa. I would say that 60% to 65% of clients are quite happy with their lobbyists. That's not a lot, but it's considerable.
The third point is public office holders. They always talk about the access and substance talents with a bias, of course, for the latter, but whether it is politicians or bureaucrats, many public office holders appreciate the information, the summing-up of an issue, and the industry updates that a lobbyist brings.
This applies to bureaucrats as well, who people often assume are not interested in hearing from lobbyists. Many bureaucrats actually rave about lobbyists. Of course, there are those who refuse to meet with them, too.
My point is that lobbyists have some value to the system. I want to stress the information flow role. Good public policy gets as many channels of information flowing into it as possible. A good public office holder can see a lobbyist's bias and distinguish a lobbyist who is bringing value-added from one who is just trying to earn his or her retainer and go home.
Those are my general comments.
One big picture item that your bill won't fix is the pervasiveness of lobbying, and I don't see it looking at this. The range of organizations and bodies hiring hired guns is incredible. They include hospitals, zoos, universities, ice cream companies, and stores. Lobby associations hire hired guns as well, amounting to something that I'm calling layered lobbying.
Why? This likely reflects the feeling of entitlement that probably started with the charter, but it is very much a sense of feeling cut off from government. I think your bill should try to address this better.
Now, as far as the specifics in the bill are concerned, I think banning contingency fees is an excellent idea. There is no need for a consultant lobbyist to have an incentive to help their clients.
The five-year ban should be reduced to three years, with no loopholes whatsoever. As you likely know, there are loopholes that allow a minister to use a list so that junior staffers are not subject to this ban. Political aids, no matter what their level, are privy to all kinds of information, so you need a rule that is hard and fast. In my opinion, you should eliminate these loopholes.
The ban should not apply to industry associations. There is a long tradition of cross-collaboration between associations and government. These industry associations are themselves not for profit.
Public office holders have told me how much they value the sector-specific input of associations. I've argued with the hired guns about this, but I feel the mindset and approach of associations is different and a long cooling-off period is not necessary.
Five years, I feel, is too long. It will drive the industry underground. People will find more ways to get their message across without registering, which is something that occurs today, as I'm sure you know, but not frequently. And it will prevent politically attuned people from working in politics. If you want average Joes on the Hill doing government relations, pass this bill.
Regarding the recording of names of public office holders by lobbyists, I understand that you want to set up a second registry. I can guarantee this will really tee-off public office holders and put a chill on lobbying entirely. Look at it from the point of view of a public office holder, who will see his or her name popping up on a registry just because he or she agreed to meet with a lobbyist. I suggest, instead, that you use the current lobbyist registry and have a section where the lobbyist fills in two boxes, indicating the number of political people they met with and the number of bureaucrats they met with, and perhaps the dates. That way, no names are recorded. This should be done within two weeks of a meeting.
I also suggest that a 1-800 number be incorporated into the lobbyist registry, and operate weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with live bodies willing to assist people who are having trouble with the registry. It is pretty user-friendly, but there are definite difficulties with it. Considering this is your only tool for transparency, this would be a good investment of money.
I have two more comments and then I'm finished.
The second big-picture problem is that one of the things that your proposals in this bill is trying to solve is that there is no real way to track how decisions are made in our federal government. I'm not the first to make this point. Recording meetings with lobbyists may help a bit, but one should not overestimate their role. Lobbyists do not make things happen; politicians do. Lobbyists alert, inform, and try to influence politicians, but it's the politicians who move the chess piece across the board, so to speak. Yet our mechanisms for seeing this are very weak.
Lastly, I suggest you amend the lobbyist registry, so that “hybrid” lobby firms—those who lobby on one floor, and do work for government on another floor—are required to declare the latter. This is a huge problem.
Thank you, Ms. Curtis. I was very impressed with your presentation and your point that we should avoid people selling their relationship, but more or less praise people who are selling their expertise.
A number of questions have been raised by this bill, and a number of amendments may come forward at the last minute, I hope. The question is, what is the difference between a former staffer for a political minister working as a lobbyist after leaving the minister's office, with the three- to five-year period, whatever it is, which are covered by this bill, and someone who leaves an opposition member's office and becomes a lobbyist when the government changes? These are real-life examples.
I have tried to illustrate, in questions in the House and other places, that it really doesn't matter where the money comes from, whether from government or the opposition or Parliament or political parties. What really matters is the relationship; if someone has been with a politician who is now a minister but who was an opposition member for ten years, as a campaign worker or a staffer, obviously they have a relationship that is important to the lobby firm. I would like to see something included in the bill that precludes that, for whatever period. I understand what you're saying about three to five years. That's very debatable, as well, I think
Do you agree with me that it's the relationship or connection that the putative lobbyist has with the now-cabinet minister, or the then-cabinet minister, that matters, and not where the money came from?
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you very much for inviting me to appear before you today.
I am the President of the Quebec Institute of Applied Ethics. We reflect on ethical matters in the management of government and large organizations.
In my opinion, the introduction of Bill C-2 is an ethical moment that must be hailed. This type of idea was put forward a long time ago, but it is now in the process of becoming concrete. As the saying goes, no one is opposed to virtue. However, the challenge is to make this virtue concrete, and to go beyond good intentions.
Bill C-2 is ambitious. It deals with a number of matters that have some connection with ethics. However, it remains silent on a number of matters, and these are the things that disturb me as an ethicist.
I will deal with only two issues in the time I have today. First, I will make a few comments on the meaning of the words used in the French and English versions of the bill and their frequent inconsistencies. Second, I will put forward some ideas about the role of the commissioners of ethics, integrity and conflicts of interest.
Misnaming things simply causes more trouble. There is certainly a desire to do the right thing in this bill, there is an interest in ethics. But we need to know what is meant by ethics. It is consideration given in order to make fair decisions consistent with the values of the state. These values have a direct link to the common good. In a responsible ethical decision — since this is mentioned in the bill — the decision-maker has a choice of means for achieving this objective. The ethical consideration occurs before the decision is made, not afterwards.
We note that the terms “imputabilité”, “reddition de comptes” or accountability all refer to a time after the decision, whereas the word “responsabilisation” refers to a time before the decision. I think there is some inconsistency in the translation, because the terms are used as synonymous, and that gives rise to a problem. Words can sometimes change meaning. Sometimes accountability means “responsabilisation”, and sometimes it does not.
I have done some research on the meaning of the words. I noticed that the word “éthique” appears 45 times in the bill, while the word “ethics” appears 291 times. That is a problem. The word “responsabilisation” appears six times, while the word “accountability” appears 141 times. The term “reddition de comptes”, which is the accurate translation of “accountability” never appears in the bill.
All right. I will repeat what I said about the number of times the words are used. The word “éthique
“ is mentioned 45 times; “ethics” appears 291 times. The word “responsabilisation
” is mentioned six times and “accountability” 141 times. The expression “reddition de comptes
“, which is the exact philosophical translation of “accountability” does not appear once in the bill.
The meaning of the words used is more than just a philosophical hobby for us, it is something very important. All the French words used in the bill refer to the time before the decision, and all the English words refer to the time after the decision. In my opinion, therefore, the accountability sought in Bill C-2 is deontological rather than ethical.
My second comment has to do with the role of the ethics and integrity commissioners. First of all, it should be noted that it is a good idea to appoint them for a long period of time. However, these commissioners should be ethicists. We would stress that they should not necessarily be jurists, however, they should be ethicists. Such people do exist.
The duty of the commissioners goes beyond a strictly procedural context. They should try to pave the way toward what is just, even before or beyond procedure.
What is an ethics or integrity commissioner? The bill does not make this clear. It states that the person shall be appointed, but it does not say what he or she does or why they exist. In fact, my main question about the commissioner is whether the individual is an advisor or an investigator. That is a major distinction that should be made here.
Even though the term “commissioner” “ commissaire” is used 500 times, the duties are never mentioned. In the notes to clauses 72.01 to 72.061, there are many references to principles, rules and obligations, without ever naming the principles in question.
The bill contains many prohibitions, but I think it is rather short on ethics. We should remember that ethical actions cannot merely be a number of prohibitions. The subject is much broader than a simple accountability calculation. It includes accountability but it goes beyond that.
The lack of value principles in the bill could reduce the commissioner's role to that of a technician providing advice on how things should be done, rather than an individual who advises on why things should be done. Bill C-2 should set out broad principles and values people can use to deduce how things should be done. Simply saying how things should be done is of no use, if there are no reasons given for this. I think the 274 pages of the bill are very long on “hows” and very short on “whys”.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I read a particular clause from Bill C-2 that bans contributions by corporations or businesses to a political party. This is to a certain degree drawn, as was the case with certain provisions a few years back, from what the Loi électorale du Québec
advocates. However, I personally do not agree with this clause.
As far back as November 1999, I expressed the opinion that corporations which are corporate citizens, should be allowed to make financial contributions to political parties. Subsequently, a similar text appeared in Le Devoir on April 9, 2005. What must be made clear is that the Quebec experience illustrates that it is wishful thinking to forbid corporations from making contributions to political parties. Allow me to read you a short passage from the 1999 article:
|Party financing by the public can no longer meet the financial needs of political parties [...] new avenues must be explored.
Financing by the public is raised by going door-to-door, and what I had just stated corresponds to what they have experienced in Quebec.
We can no longer continue putting a large number of people in a situation where they must act inappropriately. This is not ethical behaviour. Changes must be made. It seems to me that corporations must be allowed to contribute to political parties, but according to very strict rules. For example, one could allow corporations — businesses, law firms, engineering firms — to contribute to political parties. What happens currently in Quebec, is that members of the board of directors, from a law firm or an engineering firm, each pay, if there are 10 of them, the maximum amount allowed by the legislation out of their own assets, but they are then reimbursed for these contributions through expense accounts or salary increases, or some other means, which is obviously illegal.
The biggest problem is being able to investigate these cases in order to identify the people who are behaving this way, subjecting them to fines or taking them to court. This is a real problem, and I must point it out to you. This is why I find it strange that, instead of drawing on Quebec's experience, the main provisions of Quebec's 1977 legislation have been invoked, including those banning the corruption of corporations.
Having said that, I would like to submit a further comment on another section of the act that is not mentioned in Bill C-2. I find it an unfortunate omission. Section 24 of the Canada Elections Act dealing with the appointment of returning officers should be amended, and Quebec's example should be followed. All returning officers at the federal level are appointed by cabinet decree, but without any of the competitions and controls mechanisms that we established several years ago now in Quebec.
Those are my two remarks, Mr. Chairman.
I suggest two solutions. Corporations are corporate citizens. As such, we should allow them to contribute to the development of democracy and to participate financially in that. There are two hypotheses that would allow them to do so.
For example, they could contribute a maximum amount, which could be a multiple of the amount allowed for individuals. These sums would be paid into a trust fund to the Chief Electoral Officer, who would do a pro rata distribution of them according to the votes obtained by each of the political parties.
The other formula would be to allow corporations to contribute to one of the political parties, up to a given maximum amount. Obviously, the inherent constraint in this formula is that all contributions would be made public, including the name of the business and the amount paid. In this way, everyone would know what to expect.
I can easily imagine the following situation, as it was described to me by a businessman. As the political parties try to get money from corporations, from big businesses, if federal or provincial legislation allowed it, these big businesses could refuse, saying that they had already given. In that way, they could avoid any pressure that might be brought to bear on them to give more or to give under the table.
Yes. I don't think people should not contribute because it's against the law, but because it's unfair. Those are the types of principles I'm talking about.
Rules will prevent people from doing stuff, but where there's a will there's a way, as Mr. Côté just said. But I think we should educate people on the notion of being fair, being just.
These are the things we don't talk about a lot these days. We don't talk about values. We talk about interdictions, rules, and whatever, but these will never be enough.
Rules will never completely cover the unforeseen.
We cannot foresee the unforeseen or the unforseeable.
So you can write rules until you're blue in the face, but eventually, if somebody wants to break the law, they will. But I think educating people as to the notion of ethics, to do good, is a good thing. We just don't talk about it a lot. We hear people saying “It's against the law,” or “I can break that rule,” but we're not talking about being fair.
This is actually one of the reasons my party, the NDP, felt that the most critical part of this Federal Accountability Act would have been the access to information provisions, because even if you can't regulate people into higher ethical standards by observing them or by shining a light on their activities, you might force them to operate on a more ethical level. Unfortunately, the government withdrew most of the access to information provisions from this bill. We will try to reinsert some through the amendment process.
But going back to the elections financing, the province of Manitoba, where I'm from, followed Quebec's model, and we haven't had that problem so much, because the penalties are very severe for cheating. It would be against the law to do anything to deliberately circumvent the donation limits of the act.
I'm being sued currently, frankly, by a Liberal member of Parliament because we believe he's circumventing the act by having the CEO of a company, his wife, and all four of their children donating the maximum amount of money under the Elections Act. We believe that's taking deliberate steps to circumvent the rules and therefore breaking the law.
So rather than give up on trying to enforce the law, I would get tougher on those rules, because I think the principle is worth fighting for. It's fundamentally wrong that a corporate citizen, which is a super-citizen in terms of wealth and power, has more influence over the political process than individuals. I think that principle is offensive.
And unions too. I'm from the union background. Unions are excluded as well, because it just strikes me that only a citizen should be able to participate in the democratic process.
Corporations can't vote, so why should they be able to contribute money?
From the testimony I've heard tonight I'm more convinced than ever that we're on the right track. I find it a little defeatist to suggest that because businesses are going.... No one is perfect, so no matter what rules we put in place, people are going to find ways to break them. But I think we're on the right track to having enforceable rules, strong oversight, and empowered parliamentary officers. I could be missing something, but Mr. Villemure was saying we need principles and values that would guide people and need to set out the values. To me that sounds like what businesses have—a mission statement for their employees.
But we've had this discussion with other witnesses on the question, can you legislate honesty? Is that what you're saying, basically—that we need this mission statement and that somehow people would be so influenced by it that it would impact upon their behaviour?
I think generally most people—and this was certainly what Judge Gomery found—are honest and do their job and try to do what we think of as the right thing, but there are those who are bad apples and, no matter what we do, are going to do the wrong thing. What this bill, Bill C-2, is doing is putting the rules and the oversight and the officers in place to do everything we can as a Parliament to prevent the bad apples from doing bad things.
I'd like your comment on that. What is that piece that's missing?
We can't legislate honesty; you're right, definitely.
Earlier on, I began my remarks by saying that Bill C-2 constituted an ethical moment. It is generally well perceived. However, I think that only half the work has been done because the bill acts only in terms of prohibitions. Do we need a
“mission statement”, something such as we'll find in businesses? I don't think so. But I think we do have a need to reinstate the importance of values such as respect and fairness,
equality and equity, regardless of which ones apply.
I think these things are so obvious that we don't see them any more, and I think they need to be reinforced.
Also, and as Justice Gomery used to say, l'exemplarité is something that needs to be demonstrated, and it hasn't been in the past.
So I think a strong demonstration of such values is necessary, although you can't legislate honesty and you will not do so. But the introduction of the fundamentals of the project is missing. You would gain a lot by being more precise.
Thank you very much, and thank you for giving us this opportunity to meet.
My name is Paul Cantor and I am the chairperson of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board. I'm accompanied by Gordon Fyfe, our president and chief executive, and by Assunta Di Lorenzo.
We welcome this opportunity to talk to you. We have a prepared statement, which I believe has been circulated to the members of the committee. It is not my intention to drag you verbatim through that, but just to highlight the key issues and to turn the floor over as rapidly as possible to you for your questions.
We at the PSPIB do welcome the government's initiative to move towards greater transparency. In our comments, which will be restricted to how they relate to the PSPIB, we're supportive of the bill as drafted, and we look forward to its speedy passage for the reasons we will outline to you.
As neither Mr. Fyfe nor myself have had an opportunity to present to this committee before, we've taken a bit of the opening here to provide you with our résumés, which are there for your consideration. The only comment I would make about myself is that I started my career in government. I actually worked in a crown corporation and then moved into the financial service sector. It was when I was at the CIBC that I was most particularly focused on the capital markets issue, when I was treasurer of the bank and responsible for its trading operations, and thereafter when I was president of the investment committee.
My other expertise in order to hold this job relates to my general experience as a president and chief executive officer, and subsequently as a consultant. If you look down at the bottom of the section about me, you'll see that I serve and have served on a number of other boards in publicly listed companies and subsidiaries, affiliates, and so on.
Mr. Fyfe is much more deeply embedded in the capital market, having spent his entire career working in it, first at Canadian Pacific and then at RBC Dominion; thereafter at JP Morgan in London, as they say, taking on positions of increasing responsibility; then as a president at TAL, which was ultimately sold to the CIBC--unfortunately not when I was the president of the investment bank, as I badly wanted to buy it when I was there--and then finally for the Caisse. He became the president and chief executive officer of the PSPIB in 2003, and I became the chairman shortly before that.
My position and the other board of directors positions are order-in-council positions. Mr. Fyfe is selected by the board, and it is the board's decision pursuant to our statute to hire--and I hope not fire--the chief executive officer.
The Public Sector Pension Investment Board is a crown corporation. We're charged with the responsibility of managing the contributions from employees and the employers of the Public Service of Canada, the RCMP, and the armed forces. We have the responsibility for all of the contributions that are received after April 2000, and we have a growing proportion of the responsibility to dispense the liabilities that are associated with that.
During the period when the liabilities are catching up with the assets, we receive funds at the rate of about $3.5 billion a year in excess of the liabilities. So growth is a significant challenge for our organization.
Currently, we're about $30 billion, and over the course of the next 10 to 15 years we will end up being about $100 billion.
You'll see from the materials provided that our statute requires us to act in the best interests of the contributors and the beneficiaries under their public service pension plans and to invest their assets at the maximum rate of return, not surprisingly, without undue risk of loss. Thus, the board of directors of the pension fund has a statutory duty, which parallels the fiduciary duty expected of the boards of most pension funds.
My summary comments this evening will be directed towards four areas. The first is the accountability bill and how it relates to the appointment process. I'll make some summary comments on the conflict of interest issues, I'll make some summary comments on the audit issue, and I'll finish by an introduction to the access to information issues, which my colleague Mr. Fyfe will be able to deal with in greater detail.
On the appointment process, there are three issues on which I'd like to touch. The first is the appointment process, the second is board expertise, and the third is the competence of the people who are board members, both in terms of expertise and whether or not they have the capability of actually conducting themselves as board members.
The appointment process that's set up by our legislation is a very desirable framework, as it achieves a maximum of interest and a disinterest in the process. Unlike the provisions that are generally under discussion, we have a separate nominating committee that is not part of the PSPIB board itself. That nominating committee is chaired by an expert from the capital markets. Currently, it is Claude Lamoureux, who is the president and chief executive officer of Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. The balance of the members of the nominating committee are composed of representatives of the public service, the RCMP, and the armed forces, who are selected by the relevant ministers—the President of the Treasury Board, and the Ministers of National Defence and of Public Safety.
From the outset, this nominating committee has retained an executive search firm to assist in ensuring that the widest range of candidates are considered by the ministers for appointment to the board. More recently, the nominating committee has adopted the advertising requirements that are set out in the accountability bill.
The legislation on the Public Sector Pension Investment Board requires us to ensure that the directors who are selected have proven financial ability or relevant work experience that allows them to actually conduct the activities of the board. This is extremely important because the legislation provides that there are certain activities that the board cannot delegate to management, including the approval of the investment policies standards and procedures and the appointment of investment managers, who in turn are given full discretion to invest on our behalf and for approving internal controls.
Thus, it's important that we have on the board the expertise required for these activities, and we have identified that expertise as people who among them have expertise in public market securities, private equity, real estate, infrastructure, finance, accounting, and actuarial experience, technology, public affairs, and judgment.
Well, that's the expertise side. In addition to that, we need to ensure that the people who are on the board conduct themselves on a basis that contributes to excellent board governance.
To that end, the PSPIB has conducted annual reviews of itself as a board from the outset. A number of years ago, we initiated a peer review of the chairman--that's me--so that I get feedback from the board members as to how I'm doing as chair. Last year we extended that process. All members of the board are now subjected to peer review by the other members of the board.
That's important for two reasons. First, it provides us with a way of improving our own ability as directors. It also provides a channel for feedback to the nominating committee, which is separate from the board, as I described to you, so that they can make assessments on what additional kinds of expertise are needed. It also ensures that the people who are on the board, if they are subject to renomination, ought to be renominated.
In other words, there is a process in place that allows the nominating committee to make judgments about the capability of the board members as well as the expertise of the board members--
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, witnesses.
The Department of Finance and the Bank of Canada deal with sensitive information all the time, too, and they operate currently under the discretionary exemptions as regulated by the Information Commissioner. Is that correct...the Department of Finance, certainly?
There are exemptions in the existing Access to Information Act for commercially sensitive information, and so on, so that people can have access to information, to those sensitive agencies, and it's left up to the information commissioner whether or not that information should be released in cases like that, where commercially sensitive information is not released.
Why, then, should you get not just an exemption, but an automatic exclusion forever, permanently? That's what's in Bill C-2. You would get an exclusion forever, automatically, without anybody saying yes or no as to whether the public has a right to this information. I don't get that.
I'm going to make a statement; it's as simple as that. You'll have to bear with me, as it won't be long.
Before we proceed with this bill clause by clause, I would like to share some information with members of this committee. As you know, there have been several situations in recent meetings where divisions on motions have resulted in tied votes, and I've delivered a casting vote.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice explains the casting vote on pages 268 to 269 in this manner:
||The Speaker does not participate in debate and votes only in cases of an equality of voices; in such an eventuality, the Speaker is responsible for breaking the tie by casting a vote.
||In theory, the Speaker has the same freedom as any other Member to vote in accordance with his or her conscience; however, the exercise of this responsibility could involve the Speaker in partisan debate, which would adversely affect the confidence of the House in the Speaker’s impartiality. Therefore, certain conventions have developed as a guide to Speakers (and Chairmen in a Committee of the Whole) in the infrequent exercise of the casting vote. Concisely put, the Speaker would normally vote to maintain the status quo. This entails voting in the following fashion:
||- whenever possible, leaving the matter open for future consideration and allowing for further discussion by the House;
||- whenever no further discussion is possible, taking into account that the matter could somehow be brought back in the future and be decided by a majority of the House;
||- leaving a bill in its existing form rather than having it amended.
Therefore, without anticipating any results in clause-by-clause, I want to inform members that if there are tied votes on clauses of the bill, I will vote in the affirmative to leave the bill in the existing form. If there are tied votes on amendments or subamendments, the chair will vote in the negative in order to maintain the status quo and keep the question open to further amendment, either here in committee or in the House at report stage.
Finally—and this is important—I intend to notify the Speaker of any casting votes delivered on amendments. Normally, the Speaker will not select at report stage any motions that were defeated in committee. However, the Speaker does exercise a discretionary power of selection, and I intend to provide him with as much information as possible, so that he may base his selection decisions on it during report stage in the House.
I trust this information will assist the committee in its decision-making process on this bill. That's my statement for you to ponder.
At about six o'clock tonight I received a document from the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, R.R. Walsh, and Richard Denis, Deputy Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel. It has been distributed to you.
So you have this document before you. Just as a comment from the chair, which I believe I'm entitled to make, I find it a very important document. I find it very unusual that the clerk would.... I didn't ask for this document; it was just given to me. Many of you are more experienced than I am, but I find it unusual. However, the committee may consider speaking to him or having him come here, or they may not. I believe it's a fairly important document. It's here for your reading. I don't imagine any of you have had a chance to read it; you may wish to read it later, but that's for your consideration. Again, I don't make these comments to try to prejudice any of the motions—Ms. Jennings' motions, or anyone else's motions—with respect to that.
The proposal that we have for debate on these matters....
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am at page 1 of the French text, which reads as follows:
|| Federal Accountability Act
||The purpose of this review is to identify those aspects of Bill C-2 that impact the constitutional position of the House of Commons and its members or that otherwise violate provisions of the Constitution Act, 1867, pertaining to the House of Commons. This review, therefore, is limited to parliamentary law issues.
Furthermore, if you turn your attention to the summary on the previous page, you will see the following headings: “Secret Ballot Votes”, “Debates and Votes in the House”, “Conflicts of Interest and the Ethics Commissioner”, “Requests to the Ethics Commissioner”, “Members and Trusts”, “Parliamentary Budget Officer”, and “References to Parliament”.
This document is referring to clauses of the proposed legislation that are contrary to the Charter, the Constitution, or the Parliament of Canada Act.
Some members may still wish to fast track Bill C-2 even after having studied this document; however, I do not think that Mr. Walsh or Mr. Denis would advocate such an approach. I think that they would be more inclined to advocate the respect of parliamentary procedure and parliamentary law. This document leaves us with no choice but to hear testimony from Mr. Walsh and the Speaker of the House of Commons, unless we want to amend legislation that has not been touched since 1867, and which would involve amending the Constitution.
There comes a point when you have to say that enough is enough. We have been given an important document. It is all very well to debate motions seeking to complete our study of the bill on the double, but the document that has been provided to us by the office of the law clerk leads me to believe that would be irresponsible, dangerous and disrespectful of parliamentary tradition. Of course, the committee can opt to make it a partisan issue.
I am absolutely right. Thank you for confirming that.
The motion I have here is designed to get us down to work and get the job done. We have now heard every single witness and more. Every single witness whom every single party put forward has been heard, except for those who did not want to attend. We have heard all the witness testimony we need to hear, unless we are inventing people to put them on the list exclusively to extend the time. In fact, I understand that some of the witnesses who have been contacted on the remaining list are not interested at all in coming, so we really have no more witness testimony to go over.
Finally, it is probable that the House is going to decide it will not leave for the summer until this bill passes, meaning that if we want to get all members back to their ridings by the scheduled June 23 ending date, we have to get this bill to the House by the 19th or the 20th. That requires that we get down to business on clause-by-clause immediately.
So I'm proposing that we begin clause-by-clause on Tuesday, June 6, 2006, and I think we should entertain the possibility of witnesses on Monday, June 5, if members believe that would be helpful. I'm also interested in entertaining any amendment that would allow us the time to submit additional amendments throughout the clause-by-clause process. That's something all of the opposition parties have come to me and asked my opinion on. The Bloc, the Liberals, and the NDP have all suggested they would like to see that happen.
So without further ado, I move that the committee begin its clause-by-clause study of Bill C-2 on Tuesday, June 6, 2006.