Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
Good morning, honourable members of the committee.
I see a quorum.
I must inform members that the clerk of the committee can only receive motions for the election of the chair. The clerk cannot receive other types of motions and cannot entertain points of order or participate in debate.
We can now proceed to the election of chair, pursuant to standing order 106(2). The chair must be a member of the government party. I am now ready to receive motions for chair, please.
Thank you very much, everyone, for unanimously agreeing to make me chair. I hope I don't let you down, and I hope that this is going to be a committee in which we all work together in a collegial manner to try to achieve the best for Canadians.
I would like to move now to election of the vice-chairs.
Does the committee agree to proceed to that?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Are there any nominations for vice-chair? The vice-chair must be from the official opposition.
We're now going to move to a motion on the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure. You should know that the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure is composed of five members—the chair, the two vice-chairs, and two government members—and the quorum for the subcommittee is to be three members, including one member of the government and one member of the opposition. That's basically what happens when we decide on this.
First of all, congratulations on your election. I am very pleased to be working with you again.
I imagine that everyone received this information booklet.
I'll speak slowly to make sure that you have time to put on your earpiece.
In this information piece, it has been evoked that in the 41st Parliament all parties were represented on the subcommittee and, of course, the chair was there too. If there was any big event, the government still had the torque to make the changes it wished.
I would see it as symbolically preferable to have one government member and one representative of both opposition parties. I don't see the need to have two government members on the subcommittee.
I personally have no objection to Monsieur Nantel's suggestion. Obviously it would have to be made in the form of a motion. I think we could live with that, or the proposed one here. From the Conservative side, I think either one is probably fine.
I can present my suggestion as a motion, if you prefer, Mr. Vandal. But goodness knows how much the Conservative government enjoyed asserting its power and majority last year. We were all well aware of that. We dealt with the situation and we did what we had to to get work done, despite it.
I'm just a bit surprised by that choice. No matter what, you're not at all at risk of losing an important decision, since the clerk can swing the vote in your party's favour if there's ever a panic. If that's how you see it, fine. I can bring forward a motion but I don't think that will change anything. I won't waste the committee's time. We have important business to tend to. The media are moving around us, and we need to work quickly.
Everyone, if you understand and you've read the new guidelines for what other committees have been doing, there is a parliamentary secretary on the steering committee. How does everyone feel about that?
As you know, parliamentary secretaries are not going to be voting on any of these committees.
That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be composed of five (5) members, including the Chair, the two Vice-Chairs, two Government Members and; that the quorum of the Subcommittee consist of at least three (3) members, including one (1) member of the government and one member of the opposition; that each member of the Subcommittee be permitted to have one assistant attend any meeting of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure; and that, in addition, each party be permitted to have one staff member of a House Officer attend any meeting.
I think it's important. A quorum is usually the majority, and the majority of five is three. There may be instances when things have to occur very quickly because of travel and the fact that there's only one member of the third party. We need to be nimble. The other two members need to be represented, so I think I'm speaking against this suggestion in order to keep things going very quickly. As I read it, that would be the preferred option.
I think there is merit in the notion that in setting an agenda, there be an ability.... There's certainly the ability of the third party to be there. I think I'd be prepared to try including them in the quorum, provided it didn't demonstrate a desire to shut down the work of the committee.
In terms of an opportunity to protect the rights of the minority, I don't think it's a bad idea.
I would like to bring that motion on reduced quorum, please.
I would like to move the following motion:
That the Chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and to have that evidence printed when a quorum is not present, provided that at least four (4) members are present, including one (1) member of the opposition and one (1) member of the government; and that, in the case of previously scheduled meetings taking place outside the Parliamentary precinct, the Committee members in attendance shall only be required to wait for 15 minutes following the designated start of the meeting before they may proceed to hear witnesses and receive evidence, as long as a member of the government and the opposition are present.
I will move on the time limits for witness statements and questioning:
That the witnesses from any one organization shall be allowed ten (10) minutes to make their opening statement. During the questioning of witnesses, there shall be six (6) minutes allocated for the first round. The order of questions for the first round of questioning shall be as follows: Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Liberal. For the questioning during the second round, six (6) minutes shall be allocated to each questioner and shall be as follows: Liberal, Conservative, Liberal, Conservative, to the exception of the NDP questioning after for three minutes.
There would therefore be a total of 50 minutes of question time.
Frankly, I find that attitude pretty harsh. I'm very surprised. This is quite a turnaround from the sunny ways promised. Everyone's familiar with the schedule and knows that my time to speak is at the very end. Everyone also knows that the last questions very often aren't asked. As an NDP member, not only am I the last committee member to speak, but I'm also being given just three minutes. That's a complete joke. I refuse to believe that you can't do better than that. Honestly! That's terrible.
I would observe that this issue did arise at the procedure and House affairs committee earlier, and they, having discussed it, came to an agreement on an approach they thought was essentially equivalent. They arranged for each part of round one to be seven minutes, so that two Liberals would get one more minute, the Conservative would get one more minute, and a New Democrat would get one more minute.
That all would get shaved off the second round so that the first three in the second round—Liberal, Conservative, Liberal—were five minutes instead of six minutes. The fourth Conservative was five minutes and stayed there, and for the New Democrat, the minute that was shaved off from there went up front, so they were reduced to two minutes.
That's what was agreed to at procedure and House affairs. Seeing that as balanced, we would be prepared to agree either to that or to the motion that's been made. It could be either one of those.
The idea of what was done at procedure and House affairs was basically to keep the balance identical, which meant shifting some time from the back end to the front end and not actually allocating additional time to any particular party, thus keeping the numerically fair balance.
I'd like to draw your attention to the decision the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs came to. Witnesses are given 10 minutes for their opening statements. A moment ago, Mr. Van Loan mentioned the 7 minutes, which are entirely appropriate.
I'm going to read what was decided in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs:
…in round one, all slots would be seven-minute slots, with the order being Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Liberal; in round two, the first four slots would all be five-minute slots, and the order would be Conservative, Liberal, Conservative, Liberal; the fifth slot would remain a three-minute slot, and it would be [a poor] NDP slot.
That method has an advantage. If it's a member of the government party who speaks first during the second round of questioning, they could run out of steam. You may not realize this, but asking witnesses relevant questions is quite demanding. Very often, you're almost out of breath when you're trying to wrap up your questions. If, at the very least, we were to alternate with the other side by giving the Conservatives the first opportunity to speak, that would help. As things already stand, the NDP carries little sway when it comes to votes, and I can only lament that fact. But you will see that we have much to contribute to discussions on Canadian heritage issues.
I'd like to suggest something to you, Mr. Van Loan, or you, Mr. Vandal.
I see a problem with the Liberals still going first in the second round. A witness appears before the committee and spends 10 minutes telling their story. Then they are questioned by members in the following order: Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Liberal. And then it starts over again with a member of the government party. That doesn't strike me as a constructive exchange.
There is a suggestion by Mr. Vandal that he agrees with Mr. Van Loan's suggestion that we follow what the procedure and House affairs committee did, but that we add one extra minute for the NDP, which would give the NDP three minutes. Let us consider that amendment or that idea first and see how that goes.
It will be 10 minutes for witnesses to make their opening statement. Then the round would be Conservative, seven minutes; Liberal, seven minutes; NDP, seven minutes; Liberal, seven minutes. Then the second round would be Liberal, five minutes; Conservative, five minutes; Liberal, five minutes; Conservative, five minutes; and NDP, three minutes.
That is what we have passed right now.
We're moving to the distribution of documents. Is there a motion?
At the procedure and House affairs committee, there was a change in the rotation, as Mr. Nantel had suggested, and that is what I thought I was voting for. At the procedure and House affairs committee, the second round went Conservative, Liberal, Conservative, Liberal, NDP.
Just to clarify, the rotation that was adopted by PROC, as I understand it, was that the first round was Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Liberal, and the second round was Conservative, Liberal, Conservative, Liberal, NDP.
All right. Shall we agree, then to rescind the earlier motion and then to vote on the full PROC package?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: The motion reads:
That witnesses be given ten (10) minutes to make their opening statement; and that during the questioning of witnesses the time allocated to each questioner be as follows: for the first round of questioning, seven (7) minutes to a representative of each party in the following order: Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Liberal; for the second round, five (5) minutes be allocated in the following order: Conservative, Liberal, Conservative, Liberal; followed by NDP, three (3) minutes.
That only the Clerk of the Committee be authorized to distribute documents to members of the Committee and only when the documents are available in both official languages and that witnesses be advised accordingly.
That, if requested, reasonable travel, accommodation and living expenses be reimbursed to witnesses, not exceeding two (2) representatives per organization; and that, in exceptional circumstances, payment for more representatives be made at the discretion of the Chair.
I have a question, not having been on one of these committees for a while.
What does it actually mean when you say “one staff member present from their office and from their party”? Does that mean one staff member per member, or does that mean two staff members per member? To me, the wording is ambiguous.
The motion would be that unless otherwise ordered, each committee member would be allowed to have one staff member present from their office and that a representative from the whip's office would also be present.
That forty-eight (48) hours' notice be required for any substantive motion to be considered by the Committee unless the substantive motion relates directly to business then under consideration; that the notice of motion be filed and distributed to members by the Clerk in both official languages; and that completed motions that are received by 4:00 p.m. be distributed to members the same day.
I would like to thank the committee for getting that done with dispatch and for being very collegial about it.
Before I entertain a motion to adjourn, I would like to suggest that this committee meet again when we come back from the break holiday, and that we sit down and make it our first order of business to discuss where the whole committee—not just the special steering committee—wants to go, how we see ourselves mapping out the next set of meetings, and what our priorities are. I think that might be a good idea, so perhaps you can be ready to do that.