I call the meeting to order.
This is the Legislative Committee on Bill C-2, meeting number three. We are studying An Act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability.
We have some guests this morning. However, before we do that, I'd like to give the report of the subcommittee that met yesterday, since we are, in that report, talking about some procedural matters. You should have it before you. I'll read it and then I'll ask for a motion.
This is the first report of the subcommittee on agenda and procedure:
||The Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure of the Legislative Committee on Bill C-2 has the honour to present its first report.
||Your Subcommittee met on Monday, May 8, 2006, to consider the business of the committee and agreed unanimously to make the following recommendations:
||1. It was agreed, — That the Committee authorize the Clerk to contact witnesses and attempt to find groupings that reflect the overall desire of each party, and that each grouping be focused by subjects to the extent possible;
||2. It was agreed, — That the final time limit for the submission of witness list and for witness requests to appear expires at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, 2006, after which witnesses may be invited to submit a brief in writing;
||3. It was agreed, — That, whenever possible, all Committee meetings for the purpose of hearing witnesses be televised;
||4. Pursuant to the motion of the Committee on May 3, 2006, the following motions have been referred to the Committee for its consideration:
|| That each witness or group of witnesses have a total of 10 minutes in which to make an opening statement;
|| That the limit on speaking times for Committee members be limited to 5 minutes, with the exception of the questioning of witnesses.
An error was pointed out to me. On item number 2, I said May 10; it should be May 9, which is today. To be clear on what the subcommittee recommended, it was that the time limit for the submission of the witness lists and requests expire today at 5 p.m.
I'm open for discussion and a motion.
Okay, that answers my question.
I'm opposed to this, and I'm curious as to why this was not brought up at the subcommittee. It appears Ms. Jennings is now opposed to the decision that was reached by the committee, which had the support of her own member.
I'm curious as to why the Liberal delegation would want to alter the roles now from what they agreed to yesterday before a subcommittee. I think that the public is going to be watching this committee to ascertain if members are really serious about bringing in this Accountability Act and getting the job done or whether we're going to pass motions that are deliberately designed to extend the time period to keep discussion going and to waste away the days. That, in my view, is what is going on here.
We have a deliberate effort to keep an ongoing, never-ending debating society going on here, as long as humanly possible. There's no reason why we can't anticipate which witnesses we want to hear from. There's no reason whatsoever why we can't sit down--we've already had a week to do it--and decide which witnesses we're going to want to hear from so that the clerk can get busy planning the witnesses and when they will be coming before this committee.
I guess if there are members of this committee who want to deliberately delay the passage of this law for their own partisan interests, then so be it, but the public will recognize that for what it is.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, may I, on my own behalf, assure Mr. Poilievre that I personally have no hidden agenda or desire to unnecessarily prolong the deliberations of this committee. I think in that respect I speak on behalf of all the committee. I'm not sure where that inference is drawn from, but I'd just like to put that on the record.
The second thing is that it was my recollection--and sometimes I wonder whether I was at the same committee--that we were really concerned about notices of motion. We had a long discussion about that.
The matter of witnesses, I thought, was according to the established process. I chaired the environment committee last term, and we did from time to time hear from a witness about whom the committee was motivated to say, “Well, you know what, that really comes under somebody else's jurisdiction. We'd like to put them on the witness list.” Never at any time, in any committee that I have sat on, was it the approach that we would truncate the process and not allow for that kind of flexibility on the part of the committee.
So, Mr. Chairman, if the intent of the amendment--and I'm not even sure what it is--is to leave it open to the flexibility of the committee without prejudice and without any relevance to what is suggested as the motivation, I think we should be as flexible as we possibly can, especially in hearing from the public, because that's the nature of committee work.
I don't think I've ever been on a committee where there's an open-ended list of witnesses. I can't imagine how we could operate if, on some whim and notion, at the end of hearing one group of witnesses we decided, well, we should probably hear this group as well, or that group as well. That's why there's always--always--a finite agreed-to list of witnesses, subject to unforeseen events or unanimous consent, where we might decide it's absolutely crucial that we expand the list to include one extra special person.
But the idea that you can keep sending in names and adding to the period of time that we dedicate to hearing witnesses is a guarantee that you'll undermine and hijack this committee into endless, fruitless naval-gazing, and I declared when I first got here that I wouldn't be a part of that.
In fact, I'm inclined to serve a notice of motion at the end of this speech that we do not meet in televised rooms, because I'm embarrassed that the people of Canada are witnessing this kind of grandstanding already. It's started already. I mean, what we predicted, our worst fears, are here; they've been realized. We have nothing but grandstanding and pontificating about how our party embraces accountability more than your party does, without any--I don't think--sincere interest in getting started on this committee. I don't sense it.
I don't think we should be televised if that's all we're going to be doing. We should be behind closed doors and getting this stuff out of our system, at least.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and colleagues.
I would like to perhaps put a bit of a finer point on our discussion. We seem to be talking about cutting off the list completely today or tomorrow, and then only extending it with unanimous consent. It seems to me that might be too restrictive.
Mr. Poilievre has suggested that it be on a reasonable need-be basis, if there's unanimous agreement, but I'm not sure that properly qualifies it.
I would suggest, colleagues, that it be a majority. If a majority of the committee feels that another witness is necessary to do our work properly, that should be the test for expanding the list after today.
An hon. member: Hear, hear!
Does the committee want to hear the witnesses now or proceed with this report? Okay. There appears to be a consensus, so we'll adjourn and discuss items number 3 and 4 sometime in the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have three witnesses before us. From the Department of Public Works and Government Services, we have Laurent Marcoux, director general of public opinion research and advertising coordination, government information services. Good morning, sir.
We have from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Susan M.W. Cartwright, assistant secretary of accountability in government. Good morning again to you.
We have from the Department of Justice, Joe Wild, senior counsel. Good morning again to you.
Does anyone have any comments before we proceed?
Mr. Chairman, I should perhaps briefly explain to the committee my job
and the role my unit plays is in the coordination of public opinion research within the government, if that may be of some assistance. As director general for coordination of public opinion research and advertising, I'm responsible for the public opinion research directorate.
This is an organization that has the mandate, pursuant to the Treasury Board communications policy and procedures, to act as technical and coordinating authority for public opinion research for the Government of Canada as a whole. As such, although each individual department and agency is accountable for its own public opinion research, they must come to my directorate, where we are obliged to review and advise departments on the research plans, methodology, and so on. We issue a public opinion research number, which is essential for a department to be able to access a contract pursuant to public opinion research.
In a very quick nutshell, that's the role we play within the public opinion research process within government.
Mr. Marcoux, I quote from the Auditor General's report of November 2003, tabled in the House of Commons in February 2004, I believe. In particular, the section under public opinion research on page 4, chapter 5, of the Auditor General's report reads:
||5.15 Based on our review of a sample of transactions and management practices, we found that the government managed its public opinion research activities adequately. The activities were centrally co-ordinated, as required by policies. Roles and responsibilities in the majority of activities were sufficiently clear; Communications Canada had issued an orientation guide outlining procedures for public opinion research and had developed a research guide to assist departments. In 2001-02, it published an annual report showing the number and value of government contracts awarded to each supplier.
Sir, in terms of your current position—and I realize the structure has changed, and Communications Canada no longer exists—could you please explain to us what changes have been made since the Auditor General's observation regarding public opinion research having been dealt with adequately? Were there particular concerns that required adjustment? Or has the situation been tightened up, or has oversight been expanded? Or what exactly has happened in terms of your role in the research since that time?
Certainly. Although the Auditor General did say that public opinion research was well managed at the time of the tabling of the report, nevertheless she indicated a number of observations, where there were some issues, and recommended to the government that an action plan be developed to address any and all of the observations in her report that raised concerns or issues concerning the management of public opinion research within the government.
In answer to your question, there was one comment, for example, that in a few instances—and those are the words of the Auditor General—there were cases in which a department had not received a written report on public opinion research. In other words, there were verbal reports only that had been identified by the Auditor General. As a result, the Treasury Board Secretariat issued new administrative procedures in November 2004, specifying that public opinion research reports must be in writing. I believe this was also indicated in the Treasury Board's communications policy.
Other concerns included that not all public opinion research reports were released to the public in a timely manner. I believe the Auditor General identified an 86% compliance rate, if you will, with the communications policy at the time, indicating that in 14% of cases the public opinion research reports were not made available to the public in a timely manner. Since then, my directorate has introduced a research information management system, which, as of a few months ago, issues monthly reminders to departments about due dates for the tabling of their public opinion research reports.
In addition, there were a number of observations that pertained to the Canada Information Office and Communication Canada, which no longer exist, so I won't refer to those.
There was an observation that the government could not prepare a strategic plan for public opinion research. Since then, the new procedures in November 2004, I believe, stipulate that institutions are to provide to the public opinion research directorate not with a global plan, but they are to advise the directorate of their plans to undertake public opinion research activities in a timely fashion.
Thank you. With your permission, Mr. Marcoux, I am going to put my next question to our researcher. As I know that it is important to Mr. Poilievre that we respect our allotted time, I am going to use my time to ask this question.
Would it be possible to carry out some research — and I do not need this for tomorrow morning — on the average time that it has taken, let us say over the past 20 years, to adopt a bill comprising 317 clauses? Does it take an average of two weeks, two months, nine months? I would like to have some figures on this, because every time we ask a question, we get told that we are trying to filibuster, when, in fact, we are only seeking to carry out a meaningful study on the matter. If we knew the average time it took, we would be able to show that we are just trying to be thorough and rigorous in our work, as opposed to simply acquiescing to the Conservatives' desire to move ahead quickly.
I apologize to Mr. Marcoux for having used my time to make this statement.
Mr. Wild, maybe I could ask you too.
This is one of the fears. One of the recommendations of John Reid, at least, was that there be mandatory documentation, and not only in the public opinion research sector but throughout government operations, and that it would become an offence not to create paper associated with the activities of government.
Is one of the concerns the reason you didn't include that in Bill C-2 , that you would drive this work underground, where nobody would commit anything to writing, other than a post-it note, for fear of ATIP at a later date?
The answer to your last question is no.
If I may return to your earlier question about documentation and whether there might be a difficulty with insufficient documentation, in the field of public opinion research that was not identified as a major concern by the Auditor General in the audit of 2003, except that she indicated that in a number of research projects some departments did not adequately describe the research project and they did not adequately identify the need for it or the usage to which it was to be put. That was identified in 2003 as one of her observations.
Since then, the communications policy procedures, I believe, stipulate that institutions must provide that kind of documentation when they undertake public opinion research and when they submit their plans to my directorate. We review those and comment and advise on them. We've also produced a kind of a guide, if you will, or a documentation checklist that we've provided to institutions to assist them in file documentation.
It wasn't identified as a large issue, but there were some concerns. They have been addressed in the administrative procedures of the government and in the work we do.
If I may, I'm just going to respond to Mr. Sauvageau's question to our researchers about how long it would take, on average, to get through 317 clauses.
In the last meeting, I asked the minister about the number of clauses in this bill and about what kinds of clauses they are. If the committee remembers, the minister responded that approximately half of the 317 clauses are very technical in nature. So I don't really think, since they're not substantive or new regulations being brought in, that it would take us that long to get through those technical clauses.
Of the remainder, the minister indicated that the majority are actually regulations lifted from other acts, with slight modifications put into them so they can appear under Bill C-2. In fact, the only real new regulations are very limited--things like the establishment of a Director of Public Prosecutions, changes to the Lobbyists Registration Act, and those types of things.
So my comment is that I'm not sure how relevant it is to ask our researchers how long it would take, on average, to get through 317 clauses, since a lot of the clauses contained in this legislation are either technical in nature or are minor modifications to existing regulations that have already been planted in other acts and which we're just lifting out and putting into this act.
I guess my point is that most of the heavy lifting has been done. There are only a limited number of new regulations that we really, I think, need to concentrate on, because those are the ones that are new.
That's my comment, Mr. Chair, and I have no questions of the witnesses. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for asserting the role of chair in terms of the respect we have for witnesses. From time to time, we have members of the public here also, and we should always afford the kind of respect they have a right to expect, whether they're from our staff or from the public.
Mr. Chairman, I've been interested in the part of the report that deals with supporting Parliament. I know the committee is interested in the role of the parliamentary budget officer that has been suggested in the legislation. Reading the legislation, I see that the role of the parliamentary budget officer is to close the accountability loop with respect to revenue raising and spending, rather than with respect to actually creating the budget.
My question, Mr. Chairman, is whether it would not be better, because there have been concerns raised with respect to creating more bureaucracy unnecessarily, to entrench the authority of a parliamentary budget officer in the Auditor General's office, as opposed to running a parallel role. It would appear to me that the infrastructure in the Auditor General's office would be available to the parliamentary budget officer without having to create additional backup.
That's my question, Mr. Chair.
First of all, I would like to apologize. I thought that, initially, our questions had to be addressed only to Mr. Marcoux, rather than to the three witnesses. I had other questions.
If I may, I will answer Mr. Lukiwski. This is indeed a bill comprising technical and other amendments. However, when there is a desire to expedite the process, the director of political appointments can be appointed before the committee holds its first meeting. But when the issue is making decisions regarding Bill C-11 from the previous session, apparently we have to wait for the committee to do its work. This means the study of this bill is really a two-tier process. A number of amendments and sections raise a great many questions. I will give you two instances where, in my opinion, the opposition can demonstrate its willingness to do constructive work in a very practical way. But first, I have some questions for our witnesses.
Can the Integrity Commissioner be proactive, or does he have to wait for a complaint to be submitted? For example, the Auditor General of Canada investigated the sponsorship scandal, and found that funds had been misappropriated in one department or another. So we had to wait for the November 2003 report. If there had been an Integrity Commissioner at the time, could the Integrity Commissioner have initiated any action? In my view, the bill as it currently stands does not allow him to do so.
I have another instance that I would use to show Mr. Lukiwski why we have to study this bill so carefully.
There you are! I think that would be a good amendment for the bill, and one that would not delay its application.
I have a second question on a point that would make it possible for us to amend Bill C-2 constructively. I would like to talk about a decision of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal concerning a government department that the court has found guilty, let's say, of issuing a biased call for tenders.
I could give you another example, the relocation of federal employees and PWGSC. When Scott Brison was the minister, the department decided to skew the contract so as to make it possible only for Royal LePage to respond to the call for tenders, thereby eliminating potential competitors, particularly Envoy. The CITT ruled that this was a case of misconduct.
Under C-2 in its present form, could that decision be investigated by the Integrity Commissioner?
Mr. Sauvageau, I think, you're discussing why the integrity commissioner cannot initiate an investigation. It seems to be a very peculiar question, totally extraneous to the discussion of whistle-blowing.
The watchdog who protects whistle-blowers cannot protect a whistle-blower who doesn't blow the whistle. If there is no disclosure, there is no disclosure to investigate. So if the purpose of having a whistle-blower watchdog who investigates disclosures of wrongdoing and protects whistle-blowers who speak out, then why, in this world or the next, would he initiate an investigation when he's not heard from the whistle-blower? It seems like a totally extraneous point. The fact that he's then connected it to the need to extend the time this committee takes to pass the Accountability Act would seem even more boggling.
Finally, if he does have an amendment to that effect, we would encourage him to put it forward. No one is suggesting that he will not have the right to put forward amendments during clause-by-clause.
My question is for Mr. Wild. Is it not within the realm of your understanding of whistle-blower protection that an integrity commissioner can only investigate a disclosure that he has received and protect a whistle-blower that exists? Or can he investigate a disclosure that he has not received or, conceivably, protect a whistle-blower who does not exist?
Part 1 of the bill is entitled “Conflict of Interest Rules.” Section 4 defines the meaning of conflict of interest.
Subsection 6(1) of the bill, entitled “Decision-making,” states:
|| 6. (1) No public office holder shall make a decision or participate in making a decision related to the exercise of an official power, duty or function if the public office holder knows or reasonably should know that, in the making of the decision, he or she would be in a conflict of interest.
Subsection 6(2), entitled “A debate or vote,” states:
|| (2) No minister of the Crown, minister of state or parliamentary secretary shall, in his or her capacity as a member of the Senate or the House of Commons, debate or vote on a question that would place him or her in a conflict of interest.
If I understand the wording of subsections 6(1) and 6(2) correctly, this means that, if the bill were in force, ministers Emerson and O'Connor could neither participate in a debate in the House nor vote on certain issues. For example, if there is a debate or a vote in the House in connection with the softwood lumber agreement, Mr. Emerson could not take part. Similarly, if there was a debate or vote in the House on new instruments or equipment on which his former clients might bid, Mr. O'Connor could not take part.
Is this correct?
I call the meeting to order again.
We have a number of people before us. Good morning.
I gather the lead is from the Privy Council Office, Kathy O'Hara, deputy secretary to the cabinet, machinery of government; and we have Marc Chénier, counsel for the democratic renewal secretariat; Dan McDougall, director of operations, legislation and House planning; and Patrick Hill over there in the corner is an officer with machinery of government. Those are great titles.
Ms. O'Hara, do you have some preliminary remarks to make?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, witnesses.
I'm very concerned that the talk is to keep the money out of politics, to limit the money out of politics, to take money as power out of politics and to rest on our laurels that, because of reforms made and reforms to be made, financing for political campaigns will come out of the public purse through what I essentially call the rebate in the retail end of politics that you get for each vote—the meat count, as it were.
What concerns me is that we have in this country creeping influence of, for lack of a better word, PACs—political action committees. I know it's an American word, but I think we're turning to an American-influenced era with this government. That's my personal opinion; I can't expect you to answer to that comment, which is very political.
My question, which is very analytical, or through which I hope I can get some analysis from you, is whether you can envision a way that the influence of think tanks and parties from outside of our country can be constitutionally limited in any way. Do you think that the Harper v. Canada (Attorney General) case really stands for the proposition that limits are okay but nullification is not? I turn to the point about unions and corporations, which are mere extensions of people in this country and which are shut out here.
Is there a constitutional issue, do you think? And is there a way to limit outside influence in campaigns? While there's the talk of keeping money out of politics, I can see quite the reverse happening, when you look at the fundraising stats for the Conservative Party since the beginning of the year.
So that's my concern. Like that side over there talks, I too want to keep the money out of politics, but is there a better way to do it?
My next question is based on the research paper. Researchers prepare extremely relevant documents, even when they do not know who the witnesses we will be seeing are 12 hours in advance. That's what happens when things are rushed, as they are being rushed now.
Bill C-2 deals with reforms to the political party financing system. But we have already considered Bill C-79, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (third party election advertising), which died on the Order Paper. The researchers suggest that we ask you the following question.
Do you believe that the political financing reforms provided for in Bill C-2 are ineffective unless accompanied by measures covering third party election advertising? That is somewhat similar to the question put by Mr. Murphy, but perhaps more specific.
Thank you for coming today.
I'll make a couple of points and then ask just a couple of questions. I'll start with the positive and then go to some of the things we have concerns about.
The idea of banning trust funds is something we applaud, and we're glad to see that this has been the case. We have some concerns about where that money might still be, but it's good to see that's a change. What I'm referring to is that trust funds are still with riding associations; I guess one would suggest you can't do anything about it. Anyhow, as we go ahead, it's good to see they will be banned. To require sitting or elected MPs to disclose any trust fund is obviously something we applaud.
We also applaud the idea--we've been calling for this for years and are glad to see it in this bill--of taking the appointment of returning officers out of the hands of the political sphere, if you will, and making it something that is merit based.
Maybe that will just be a nice segue into looking at the appointment process. One of the things we had called for is a skills- and competency-related criteria for all government appointments. I see there's a process here, but maybe you could just elaborate on that. We'd hope to be able to submit criteria to the appropriate standing committee and publicly release the committee's approved criteria, so in effect it's not just something that is out there in the public sphere about all these appointments. If any one of my constituents might want to apply for something, for instance, they should be able to do so. There should be criteria based on certain skills and competencies for those appointments, and there should be some oversight.
I am concerned about the process. There doesn't seem to be a process where we would have a standing committee with the oversight and indeed the accountability of parliamentarians, and therefore citizens to look at government appointments. I think that's really critical.
I have a couple of other things. I hear echoes somewhere around this place that fixed election dates might be coming. We want that. Electoral reform isn't here at all. The citizens' consultation process we were hoping for that would build on what we had from the last Parliament is not here. We would obviously like to see spending limits in leadership contests. I think that's something Canadians would like to see, because indeed we could be nominating a future Prime Minister from one of the political parties. We think that's something that needs more accountability and definitely a better filter. We would want full disclosure and transparency for all leadership candidates, and that's not in here.
I'll stop there, because there are a number of questions I have put forward.
I'll try to get through all of them, and if I don't, let me know.
You raised issues about tabling of criteria for appointments. Again, I can't deal with appointments more generally. If you bring back the other part of the PCO, they can certainly answer those questions.
With respect, I think you started with returning officers and issues around the criteria for appointing them. The bill provides for the Chief Electoral Officer to develop a whole process for appointing returning officers and, in particular, to table criteria in Parliament for their appointment.
You mentioned a number of issues: fixed election dates, electoral reform, citizen consultation, and spending limits on leadership contests. As I mentioned, these address issues that were in the accountability section of the platform, which I think is called a better democracy. So we're not included here.
Did I miss something? Regarding the banning of trust funds, as you mentioned, the electoral district associations would still have the money, but they couldn't move it over to a candidate to use for political purposes under this legislation.
Thank you all for being here and being participants in the machinery of government. You've undertaken a massive job over the last while, and I congratulate you for the intricacy of what you've constructed here for our proposed additional machinery of government.
This isn't a criticism--and I don't mean it that way--of the whole approach, but I would like to get your expert analysis of the impact on the public service of the creation of all these additional parliamentary officers. I say that from a background of having been a parliamentary officer and knowing that sometimes parliamentary officers compete for bureaucratic time as well as parliamentary time and public time and public attention. I think at some stage we have to at least ask the question: are we creating a parallel universe to the executive and Parliament?
Parliamentary officers, of course, are meant to be agents of members of Parliament to assist them with investigative powers, public reporting powers, and so on, to help members of Parliament do their jobs better. Of course, in the old days there was just the Auditor General, and then ombudspersons were added in all provinces. Then, in the last 15 years we've had information and privacy officers, children's officers, advocates; federally we have the official languages commissioner, the environment and sustainable development commissioner, and now we have a procurement officer, a budget officer, an integrity officer, an ethics and conflict of interest commissioner, of course, a chief electoral officer, and we're talking about a director of public prosecutions.
As a parliamentarian looking at the executive of government with the hope that over time the administration of public affairs gets more and more efficient as well as accountable, I'm interested in expert opinion on whether at some point we're going to add so many different officers requiring so much bureaucratic time that public administrators are going to have difficulty doing their work.
I'm not putting this forward as a criticism, but I need to know your opinion of where the tolerance point is in the proliferation of oversight officers, and whether at some point we are going beyond the responsibility of the executive of government to just make the public administration work, as opposed to jobbing out accountability and review and disclosure and evaluation, when these should be within our public administration and should be self-performing—or we should be encouraging public administrators to act in an appropriate way and should have all the regulations, rules, and processes that can achieve or promote that.
So to any of you—
And I won't, thank you.
I do want to clarify a number of those cases. For example, there will be a new commissioner of lobbying, who will be an agent of Parliament.
But in terms of bureaucracy, we already had a registrar, so basically the registrar is becoming the commissioner, so that's not new bureaucracy.
The public service integrity officer, likewise, is an agent of Parliament, but it was previous legislation that established that position. So that is not a new position that's created under Bill C-2.
The parliamentary budget officer, of course, is not an agent of Parliament. It has not been established that way. It is linked to the Library of Parliament.
The director of public prosecutions, again, is not new bureaucracy. That is effectively the existing federal prosecution service in the Department of Justice.
From that perspective, I don't see a lot of new bureaucracy being created in the legislation.
I have a comment, first, to follow up on one of the questions or comments by Mr. Dewar on the change that this proposed act would have, inasmuch as rather than the government being able to appoint returning officers, the Chief Electoral Officer would appoint returning officers on merit-based appointments. I know that your party, Mr. Dewar, is in support of that, and the Bloc also. As a matter of fact, I think it was a very vigorous Bloc suggestion to have this done. So I am also very pleased to see this in the bill.
My comment is merely this: I sit on the House procedures committee and Dr. Kingsley appeared before our committee. I asked him whether he was working on establishing this merit-based package that would determine the qualifications required for returning officers. He informed me, Mr. Dewar, that he already has that done. In fact, when I pressed him on how long it would take—because we're in a minority Parliament we don't know when the next election might be called—he said if and when the bill is passed, he would be able, in his estimation, to appoint or have returning officers in the 308 ridings across Canada appointed and in place within two months. He said the bill has first to be passed in order to allow him to go out and do that.
I would suggest that when he appears before this committee as a witness, you can ask him about the package of qualifications he feels is required, that type of thing.
The question I have specifically is on trust funds, again an issue that Mr. Dewar raised. We've all heard stories about trust funds and their impact on election campaigns. Is there any empirical evidence, any studies you've seen that demonstrate how trust funds have been used and how many of them have been used in election financing in individual campaigns?
Thank you. If I understood what you said, there is no limit on spending by a third party during an election to promote the interests of a candidate or a party, provided that this spending does not fall into the category of election advertising.
If you are the experts who are appearing before this committee examining Bill C-2, perhaps you also participated in developing Bill C-79 which was tabled in Parliament by the former government during the last session. The purpose of that bill was to amend the Canada Elections Act to restrict the ability of third parties to use money received by individuals or corporations for election advertising.
When a member of the committee says that it is not a problem, that the former government never took action to limit advertising or spending during federal elections, that is not entirely accurate. Moreover, it is a relatively recent phenomenon.
I am asking each one of you if you worked on developing Bill C-79, if you were consulted, etc., and to explain to committee members who are perhaps unaware of the situation, because they were not members during the last session, that the previous government did in fact table a bill covering this issue.
Thank you for inviting me.
I have actually distributed a four-page deck. This is somewhat of a change of pace in terms of the discussion that has been going on this morning, but from my perspective, I've been asked to come here to talk about the school's role in implementing the Accountability Act, and where public servants fit into that.
So with your indulgence, Chair, I would like to basically walk through a very quick four-page deck, which will take about two minutes.
The Chair: Two minutes is perfect.
Ms. Ruth Dantzer: That's about half a minute per page, and I'll try to make sure I do that.
The second page of the document that I distributed outlines my objective today. I want to talk about the school's role in supporting the Federal Accountability Act.
We're absolutely putting the accent on a culture change for the public service, and emphasis, really, on individual as well as organizational learning. I think this is key in terms of the intent that is enunciated throughout the bill.
Page 2—and I will be very brief—goes into the context, as the school's role in helping implement the Accountability Act has to be seen in a larger context. That context is one in which we are working with both organizational leadership, individual learning, and public sector innovation.
The school's mandate is absolutely to implement a more coordinated approach to learning across the public service. This doesn't just include the one-one universe, but goes beyond—and you'll hear about that. This chart really tries to demonstrate how we see the three aspects of learning, the individual, organizational, and public sector management, coming together to ensure that we have a strong, innovative public service to serve Parliament.
Page 4 gets to the priorities of the school. I think it is here where you will see the most direct link with respect to the Accountability Act.
There are four priorities. The first is in the box entitled “Public Service Foundations”.
You'll see that the first blue box is an introduction to the public service. A key priority for the Canada School over the next while is the orientation program that we have started for all public servants. This is important because it absolutely focuses on values and ethics. For the first time ever, every public servant, within six months of their appointment, is going to have an orientation about our rules, our values, and who we work for. This is actually being held here in Ottawa, and both Houses of Parliament are intimately involved.
The second box talks about authority delegation training. This is something where all public servants, as of January 1—although the actual courses don't start until this month—with delegated legal authority to hire and authority to sign cheques and to do procurement will have to show they have gone through a course and written an exam showing they have the requisite knowledge to do those appropriately. This is the first time ever; the school in the past has basically had courses, but we've never been to level two evaluation, which means knowledge transfer. Delegations will be withheld from people who don't get through the exam or knowledge transfer.
The third box deals with training for functional groups. The main priority is to professionalize these groups. You have undoubtedly heard about our efforts as regards financial issues and procurement.
For the first time ever, for those functional communities, there are actual training programs for them to follow.
The fourth box deals with leadership development. It is clear that we want to strengthen values and ethics and leadership development within the public service.
For us, the leadership piece is very important. It's an issue in that if we can capture the leaders and ensure that they are modelling appropriate behaviour, we're actually convinced that the whole public service will follow suit.
With my last 30 seconds, I'll turn to the fourth page. It just highlights the next steps. The focus is on implementation in terms of getting this knowledge transferred.
The Accountability Act is a major piece of legislation. It requires, to some extent, culture change in the public service, and we think the courses, in terms of orientation and authority delegation, are going to situate public servants well in making sure they live up to the spirit of the act.
We are looking at evaluation, so there will be evaluation knowledge transfer, ensuring that people have the delegated authority. And obviously there will be lots of work with departments.
Finally, I want to clarify that I sent our brochure to your offices. It contains details on all of the courses that I have just talked about.
I am now ready to answer any questions you may have.
I'm excited that you are here representing the School of Public Service and that your slides talk about a strong and innovative public service.
If I can speak for our side, we have always had faith in the honesty, integrity, hard work, and brilliance of the public service. In fact, it's important to underline that despite what may be said during the daily non-answer period in the House of Commons, there is in the Gomery report a strong vindication of the public service. To that end, having faith in the public service, and seeing your enthusiasm for continuing that tradition, and getting into the culture of accountability and so on.... There are two areas I see in the Accountability Act that take away, given the strong pedigree of the public service, what might be expected.
I'll say this. The parliamentary budget officer is given separate authority to hire people on contract. The Director of Public Prosecutions is another example of something that is working in the Attorney General's office being taken out of the orbit of the Attorney General's office--not completely, but somewhat.
These are two instances showcasing an independence from or a truncation of the public service. And it might, in fact, be...not demoralizing, but it's not as great an incentive for the public service to have, for instance, a budget officer who has separate authority to hire on contract and not pick from the higher-end public service the people who deserve and have been trained for and are ready for the job.
We're just getting into the Accountability Act, but those are two areas I see where there's a bit of a contradiction. The law is intended to bolster the public service and so on, but here are two instances where it's sort of cutting away from it.
I would look forward to your comments on that.
Welcome, Ms. Dantzer, and congratulations on your new role and what you're already laying out for a new approach.
On page 4 of your slides, under “Leadership Development”, we have at the bottom of the first box, “Values and Ethics”. It may just be because this is a simple diagram, but I would think that it would be valuable to have values and ethics in the far left-hand box as well, under “Public Service Foundations”. It may be that it's contemplated in there, but I think there should be a major promotion of ethics and values right up front.
I would suggest that there's really one cardinal rule to direct public servants and politicians in how they relate to each other and, therefore, how the public administration can work with integrity and within ethics and values, and that is to understand the dividing line between them.
Our system is a political system. We have partisanship in elections, in platforms, in legislation, and in appropriation of money, and all of that goes on in Parliament. But as soon as you get to that point where the policy or legislation or whatever has been decided and the money appropriated, you cross a line and you go from what is inherently partisan to a duty of fairness. If there's one thing that I think every public servant should have burned into his or her mind, it's the concept of the duty of fairness.
That means, of course, that objective criteria, transparency, competitive processes, and results evaluation, all of those issues of the public administration, really should be divided from the political side. It's when people from the political side, frankly, whether they're ministers or ministerial assistants, cross that line that we get into trouble with the public administration and the public's faith in it. I think if we all keep clearly in our minds that dividing line, realizing the requisites and different roles of each, we'll all achieve a lot more together as we go through this act and look for guidance and reinforcement for that principle.
We did, it rather, for the Public Service Modernization Act,
the PSMA, the Public Service Modernization Act.
I do not know whether it was for Bill C-11 or for a part that was added subsequently.
But it's absolutely clear. We spent the last year talking about various parts of the PSMA, and in fact got an audit report saying that we were well on our way. Whistle-blowing is something that comes up in the discussions we have with leaders, in terms of public servant leaders, all the time. We have discussions in terms of making sure they understand.
For the School of Public Service and its professionals, it is important to give managers a framework within which they can discuss problems. This framework exists at all levels, but particularly at the management level.
Thank you very much, and thanks for coming today.
I did have the opportunity prior to this committee meeting, about a month and a half ago, to have a briefing from Treasury Board on the work that you're doing. It is really interesting. I'm hopeful for the opportunities for public servants to find opportunities to receive more professional development. I think that's critical for any public service.
I would encourage you to seek opportunities—and maybe this is planned already, and I hope this is the case—where you can have managers and people who are at other levels working together, taking courses at the same time. Maybe that's happening in the orientation. In other words, people at the highest levels, ADMs, are working with clerks, etc. I think this is something that would be helpful.
As was mentioned—I'll be blunt about it—there are a lot of disheartened people presently in our public service. Any way that we can encourage people to work together to seek common outcomes would be terrific. I would also declare an interest, being the son of a public servant.... My father was involved in management schools back in the 1980s with the public service. It was something that was near and dear to him. I'm glad to see it is being extended beyond just management. I think that's really critical. Indeed, I would like to see members of Parliament take advantage of the orientation. I'm quite serious about that, actually, because I think it would provide people with a shared experience again--members of Parliament working with public servants. If we can have the opportunity to have the same kind of training as they're having as public servants, I think this would be an opportunity that should be open to public servants as well as MPs.
I want to turn to the oversight. I know a comment was already made with regard to Bill C-2 and, for instance, whistle-blower legislation, and how you as a school would respond to new pieces of legislation. So we have Bill C-2 in front of us. At some point, we will predict, it gets passed. How do you go about responding to that; for instance, the idea of whistle-blower legislation that would be changed? Would you then go out and design courses specifically for that? Then who would they be available to?
Just start with that question.
The process that has been described is actually very accurate. We basically have a scanning function that looks at lobbyist registration, for example, whistle-blowers, new legislation that public servants actually have to be aware of to do their jobs, and changes in terms of the Lobbyists Registration Act. Those things would come into our scanning process probably in the spring or the fall.
We would start planning in September for the next year. We would get together with the policy leads; the school is a deliverer and not a policy lead. We would get the policy leads from the Treasury Board Secretariat or the Privy Council Office, as the case required, and we would design a course. We would then pilot it and move it.
In terms of the target audience, that's an interesting question, because if you go back to this priority to professionalize functional areas, I would suggest that human resources, the HR group, would really need to know about whistle-blowing to ensure that the measures are put in place around that executive table.
At the school, we found that there's a much broader audience for a lot of general management knowledge about the public service. Normally we would have a professional kind of course that would be available to the professional group, and then some piece of it might be available only to public servants at large.
The third aspect I want to make sure I emphasize is that when legislation as important as whistle-blowing comes into effect, it's actually brought into every one of our courses that go across the public service, because it's a new piece of information that they need in order to model a functioning public service.
I only have a couple of other comments.
When we're looking at the ILPs, the individual learning plans, are those done by the individuals themselves? Does a manager work with an employee of the public service? Is there then oversight in terms of whether you fulfilled your goals and have taken the courses, etc.? I'm assuming that's the case; I've forgotten if that's from the briefing, if that's the case.
The other thing I wanted to quickly touch on, because of time, is the importance that I see here in talking about a diverse workforce and whether we can broaden the scope of accountability. I know that within my riding, and certainly when you look at the public service, we don't reflect the population at large, and that's a key issue. I know that we can get into who does what and who has purview over making sure our public service reflects our population. I only want some feedback.
I see the courses there. Are they're available to all or are they ones that managers must take in terms of diversity in the workforce?
On the two questions, first with respect to the individual learning plan, a major change with respect to the school in terms of the learning policy is that individual learning plans will now be guided by government priorities.
In the past, individuals could choose whatever learning plans they wanted, and it often had a perverse effect. They would choose to take a pre-retirement course, for example, one of our most popular courses. You're now going to see individual learning plans more closely aligned with departmental learning plans, where the deputy head has basically worked with the executive and said these are the areas we need to focus on, and the school will be there to support that learning plan. It may be that we have to become much better regulators, and what are the best practices in terms of regulations?
On the learning plans, the oversight is actually going to come from departments and from individual managers to ensure that every public servant has a learning plan. I think that is getting out. It is both bottom up and top down.
With respect to managing the diverse workforce, this is again a value of the public service, so you're going to see it being spoken about at orientation. It is one of our rules. The environment you're in now is one that expects diversity and official languages, but it also carries through in terms of most of the authority delegation, because there is law that applies. At every level where people are signing off on HR, they would have some. There are also courses that would be for specialists and some that are more general, but it is across the board. That would be what we would consider a value and an ethic for the public service.
If this committee adopts this proposal. On that basis then, given that I do have the floor, I would have to say that I could not support this proposal precisely because it would then limit the access that individual groups, actual legal entities, would have to express their point of view, with their particulars. Even if you have five groups that ultimately do or do not support Bill C-2 overall, they may have different specific recommendations they wish to put forward. They would not be able to do so individually within the question period and their presentation, but would be forced to try to come to some consensus with a whole series of other groups, artificially, so that there's merely one presentation that is put forward. I really do think this is an unreasonable limit. I've never seen that before.
Perhaps there are other committees where this has happened. What we have had in other committees is calling witnesses from different groups seated at the same table, but each individual respective group had its time limit for a witness, whether it was a 10-minute or a 15-minute or a 7-minute period. Each individual representative of a separate group had its time to make its presentation and the points that the group wished to make. Then, during the question period, there was the questioning that could go to each member or to one organization, etc. But it was never the case that the actual groups would have to come together and make one presentation for a limited time only.
I really do think, Mr. Chair, and my colleagues, that this is an unreasonable limit. I would ask a friendly amendment on the part of this organization that there could be a regrouping of witnesses, of representatives, of different groups--
Mr. Chair, without divulging any state secrets, I can tell you that, yesterday, the subcommittee talked about giving each witness or group of witnesses a total of 10 minutes for an opening statement. If, for example, four University of British Columbia professors were to appear before the committee and they each had only two and a half minutes in which they or their representative could make their opening remarks, then Parliament would have totally changed how it does things. Witnesses would not be used to nor happy with such an approach.
Will the clerk be writing to witnesses to advise them that, oddly enough, they will have to work within the framework of a subcommittee and choose a spokesperson, or that they will have only two and a half minutes each in which to speak? In all likelihood, should this pass, groups of witnesses from British Columbia or Newfoundland, for example, will decide that the trip here is not worth it and that the legislative committee does not respect the traditional rules for hearing witnesses.
I do not know if the clerk can answer my question. Should this motion pass unamended, will witnesses be advised, prior to their appearance, that they will each have only two minutes, if there are five of them, or two and a half minutes, if there are four of them, in which to make a presentation or find a spokesperson?