This is meeting No. 11 of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for the first session of the 42nd Parliament. This meeting is being held in public and is televised.
Before we start, I'd like to acknowledge our honourable veteran chair of the committee, Mr. Joe Preston. I begged him on hands and knees to take the chair, but he wouldn't. I think we should welcome him.
Voices: Oh, oh!
The first business today is the supplementary estimates (C) for 2015-16, followed by an examination of the last of the federal appointees to the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, and finally, some committee business.
I will now call vote 3c under parliamentary protective service of the supplementary estimates (C) for 2015-16.
Our witnesses are the Honourable Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House of Commons and chief superintendent Michael Duheme, director of parliamentary protective service.
So that Mr. Speaker and committee members know, we also have the main estimates later this spring, so you'll probably be back. This is only for the supplementary estimates (C) for one part of your department, Mr. Speaker.
The floor is yours.
For your benefit, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Michael Duheme is the Chief Superintendent and Director of the Parliamentary Protective Service.
Before continuing, I will give everyone time to access the simultaneous interpretation. As usual, the interpreters do an excellent job.
At times I will use the acronym, PPS, to refer to the Parliamentary Protective Service.
The supplementary (C)s for the PPS total just over $17 million. I'll provide you with an overview of the items as follows: first, Parliament Hill security model enhancements; second, parliamentary protective service transition and establishment initiatives; and third, employee benefit plans.
Before I start, I must stress that for security purposes, of course, I'll be a bit limited in the level of operational detail that I can provide, or that we can provide, and I thank you in advance for your understanding.
As you know, the PPS is quite new, having been established by statute on June 23, 2015. The service is responsible for all matters relating to physical security throughout our parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill.
The Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons are responsible for administrative oversight and providing general policy direction to the service, which is under the operational control and management of its director, Mr. Duheme, a member of the RCMP. The governance was designed in this manner so that both Speakers could ensure that the powers, privileges, rights, and immunities of the Senate and House and their respective members remain paramount in the delivery of enhanced protective services.
The need for greater operational coordination among the security partners has long been identified as a priority. In fact, Mr. Chairman, in 2007, the Senate, the House of Commons, and RCMP created the master security planning office to achieve just that. Recommendations from the Auditor General and various parliamentary committees further reinforced the need for integration. Prompted by the events of October 22, 2014, members of the House of Commons adopted a motion calling upon the Speakers of both chambers to invite the RCMP to lead operational security throughout the precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill, while respecting the privileges, immunities, and powers of the respective Houses and ensuring the continued employment of our existing and highly respected parliamentary security staff.
This culminated in the creation of the PPS seven months ago. With that, the RCMP's Parliament Hill security unit and the protective services of the Senate and House were formally integrated.
The establishment of the PPS was a significant step forward in removing silos among the three security partners. Each of course brings unique expertise to the partnership, and as the organization works to fully complete its transition to a single and fully unified entity, our ability to protect senators, members, staff, and visitors, who are all vitally important to all of us, is enhanced.
As of today, PPS is well prepared operationally to deliver on its protective mandate proactively, efficiently and effectively.
Since its inception, PPS has implemented a number of initiatives that are focused on enhancing and improving interoperability, security and integration within the Parliamentary Precinct and on the grounds of Parliament Hill.
The PPS focus is on deploying resources in a manner that effectively uses the range of expertise that already exists within the current complement of employees. This integration is further strengthened by the implementation of a single command oversight mechanism, the formalization of an intelligence unit and general improvements to information-sharing in threat detection and coordination.
As well, Defence Research and Development Canada is currently completing a review to inform the physical security infrastructure within the precinct. Their objective is to provide research-based advice for the PPS to consider as it moves forward.
At the same time, the PPS, along with the Senate corporate security directorate and the House of Commons corporate security office, is establishing security awareness initiatives aimed at ensuring parliamentarians, our employees, administrative staff, and all others who provide us support here on Parliament Hill know exactly what to do during an emergency, something we can all see the benefit of.
Finally, the PPS is currently establishing specific policies and procedures that will effectively support the service's work. While the former Senate and House of Commons protection services and the RCMP are now an integrated unit, the PPS is still very much an organization in transition, which brings me to the content of the supplementary (C)s.
As the transition continues, the PPS remains committed to enhancing security awareness and exercising stewardship over all of its resources through operational efficiencies, capacity development, and enhancing interoperability. As noted earlier, the total amount in these estimates is just over $17 million for security model enhancements, transition and establishment initiatives, and employee benefit plans.
I'll first discuss the Parliament Hill security model enhancements.
The amount required is $14.4 million for the PPS to maintain an enhanced posture on Parliament Hill that is reflective of the current and evolving threat environment. As I understand it, essentially these funds are being transferred from the response money of the RCMP over to the House.
As of June 23, 2015, the responsibility for the RCMP Parliament Hill detachment was effectively transferred to the PPS. The $14.4 million will stabilize the RCMP's human and financial resources dedicated to supporting the enhanced security model on Parliament Hill and throughout our parliamentary precinct.
Second is an amount of $2.5 million for the Parliamentary Protective Service transition and establishment initiatives. This funding supports establishment initiatives required for PPS to become an independent Parliamentary entity. As well, the funding is used to manage the transition to a unified service and develop an organization structure that is aligned with the PPS mandate. This includes telecommunications, computers, software licences, project management fees as well as new full time equivalents to support operations and corporate functions such as information technology management, corporate finance and human resources.
The third item is an amount of $275,532 needed for employee benefit plans, a statutory cost currently borne by the PPS.
In conclusion, I'd like to thank every member of the PPS for their service. I must say that this morning when I arrived at the back door of Centre Block, at about seven minutes to seven—normally the door is open at 7 o'clock—I was really pleased that there was actually someone there to open it a few minutes early. I really appreciated that, just as I always appreciate the work of our service.
I would also like to thank you once again for giving me the opportunity to provide you with an overview of the Parliamentary Protective Service supplementary estimates (C). Chief Superintendent Duheme will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Firstly, I'd like to thank you for your comments on RCMP services.
I assumed my new functions on June 23, after the changes to legislation. Before those changes, there were three separate entities. Everything that happened or that was located outside, up to Wellington Street, was the RCMP's responsibility.
Everything indoors, on the House of Commons side, was the responsibility of the House of Commons security service, directed by the Sergeant-at-Arms. Finally, everything on the Senate side was the responsibility of the Corporate Security Directorate. There were challenges, but as the Speaker mentioned, there were already talks going on with the aim of integrating these three entities.
That's an overview of how things were before. I will spare you the details of the difficulties that occur when three distinct organizations do not share a communications network. There are also challenges with regard to the culture of each separate entity.
The new legislation came into force and a single entity was created. The objective for the first year is to establish interoperability within the PPS. We are doing a lot of things that had never been done before. As was recommended after the tragic events of October 22, everyone can now use the same communication channels. That was not the case in the past. It's something more that we have now. This is part of everyday activities.
With regard to communication, I believe that awareness of situations has improved. There are weekly meetings with the people in charge about all operations that take place on a given day. This information is then provided to people working on the ground. We get a better sense of what's happening outside Parliament Hill and we share that information with people inside.
With this new unification initiative comes a new uniform. We hope that this new uniform will be available as of April 1.
Earlier, I spoke of the culture of the three entities. When three entities are brought together, a new culture does not immediately develop. That will take years. I expect that by the time this new culture will have fully taken root, I will not be here anymore. Nonetheless, we are moving forward gradually.
In September 2018, we are going to move into a new workplace so that everyone can work together. I think that's when people will start to become closer. They will meet elsewhere than in their work stations, like in briefing rooms, for example.
All of this, as well as the new uniform, will help create this new culture that we want to develop.
I'd say that other than the security posture on the Hill following the events, nothing much as far as access for the visitors, tourists, and the public to the grounds has changed. We don't prevent them from going anywhere. It's the same access as they had before. It's that challenge of balancing security measures and the freedom of people to roam around on the Hill.
Other than that the security posture has changed slightly, accessibility to the Hill hasn't changed whatsoever. We maintain the tours. They go across the street to get the tickets, and then they go through the screening process before they enter Parliament. There are certain days where we limit the tours. We do limit the tours and the number of people in the tours during the regular days also, but as far as accessibility, nothing has changed.
As the Speaker mentioned, we do a lot of work with DRDC. PPS, along with the corporate security office, the corporate security directorate of the Senate, and DRDC, have asked to have a review of the entire Hill itself, to look at everything you can think of security-wise. As you know, with the upcoming closure of the Hill, we want to see what can be brought forward to ensure—I'm not going to say a better security, but maybe an enhanced security.
An hon. member: Do you mean the closure of the Centre Block, or is it the Hill?
Supt Michael Duheme: I meant Centre Block, sorry. Thank you, sir.
Thanks very much, Chair.
First off, my apologies, especially to you, Speaker, for being late. I was at another committee buried in room 112-north. I wouldn't want you in any way to think I was being rude to your presence, sir, but it was unavoidable. I got here as quickly as I could.
I know there's already been a shout-out, but I just want to mention also how good it is to see Mr. Preston here. He and I have a great history together on this committee. I can only say to you, Chair, that you have big shoes to fill, not just size-wise.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Christopherson: He did an excellent job. Again, I underscore that it was his own personal sense of humour that got us through a lot of very, very difficult moments.
It's great to see you, Joe. I understand you're having a great retirement. It is well earned.
I'll be supporting this because it's the right thing to do in the context of the framework that's here, but I just need to take this moment—because there aren't many left—to say right at the outset here how much I strongly and profoundly disagree with the whole concept of this parliamentary protective service. There is a reason we have the separation of powers in a democracy, a separation between the legislative, the judicial, and the executive. Nowhere does that separation of power, in my opinion, manifest itself in a more obvious way than in Parliament and in the way we conduct ourselves in Parliament.
When Parliament has a crisis, we turn to you, Speaker, not to the Prime Minister. Parliament's issues are Parliament's. By way of background, I need to say that as a former solicitor general in Ontario, I was also the civilian head of the OPP, and I worked very closely with my RCMP counterparts. In fact, as a minister, I was invited to and I attended the training centre in Regina. I have the utmost respect for the RCMP. This is not about the RCMP in any way, shape, or form. This is about the structure of our democracy and whether or not this supports that or goes against it. In my view, it goes against it. If we take the example of the Auditor General, the Auditor General does not answer to the Prime Minister. The Auditor General does not answer to a minister. The Auditor General answers to Parliament, and only Parliament can hire and fire an agent of Parliament. That's a good example of that separation of powers.
I might also add that because of my background, I spent some time on the Speaker's security committee at Queen's Park. We actually visited here when we looked at beefing up security at Queen's Park because of some things that had happened. I understand the complexities we're dealing with, and how we have the city police involved to a certain degree, and then the RCMP involved, and then, as you said, at the front door of Parliament, it's the parliamentary security staff. Now we've taken two of those things and merged them together, and it's wrong. It's wrong, wrong, wrong.
Here's why, Speaker, in my opinion.
The RCMP are now responsible for determining what happens and for directing the only people in Parliament who are authorized to carry guns, who are now the security staff in the House of Commons. When I say that, I also mean the joint entity of the Senate. I have no problem with joining those two together. That makes all the sense in the world. It's this business now. I say this because I see this as a serious and potentially dangerous threat, not an imminent threat. As you know, everything went along, and on October 21, we had no idea that the next day the world was about to change from a security point of view. When you examine these things outside a crisis, it sounds as though you're just getting caught up in splitting hairs and semantics. I view this very differently.
To me, Speaker, it's a very serious matter that it's no longer you who directs this. You may at a certain level direct security within Parliament, but now the RCMP have a say. The RCMP will decide. The problem with that is that Parliament is independent of the government, yet the people who control the security folks around us and the only ones who have guns are the government.
To me, it's that crossing of the lines. We have crossed the line that separated the judicial, the legislative, and the executive. The legislative is now not responsible for its own security. Our security staff is now the responsibility of the executive. If you study your history, you'll appreciate the importance of understanding what has happened in history and what happens in other parliaments. Speaker, I saw your interview over Christmas, and I was really impressed, by the way, as I didn't know you that well.
There's a reason why we don't go past the bar in the Senate and why they have to knock on the door to come in here. It all goes back to people's heads being chopped off. It goes back to people being told that they're saying something that someone doesn't like to hear, so their heads get chopped off. We have had kings who have had their heads chopped off.
This is serious stuff, and really, I feel so bad and I think it's so wrong that we've now allowed that crossing of the lines, so that the control of anything that is actually the 100% purview of the legislative arm now is overlapped by the exercising of authority by the executive.
Again, it only manifests itself when you're in crisis. I hate to think that a crisis could ever happen, but the older I get, the more I realize that anything can happen in this old world. This business of how the now dictates what happens to the security in the House of Commons is to me the antithesis of the separation of powers. I know I'm not the only one. I know that Mr. Bélanger, a respected statesperson in our Parliament, feels exactly the same way.
I've left next to no time. I really wasn't looking for an answer. I just needed to get that off my chest.
Speaker, I don't know how far you can go in your thoughts, but I'd be interested in any you might have in the fraction of moments I have left.
Thank you very much, and good morning, everyone. I'm delighted to be here.
I will make my comments very brief because I'm sure committee members will have questions. You have my CV in front of you. I'll mention my qualifications at a high level, and then I'll move on to some competencies and qualities that I might bring to this task.
I'm an engineer by training. I have been an academic all my career. I came to Canada in 1977 to pursue a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering and I became a Canadian citizen in 1980. I was a professor for 20 years, and then I became vice-president, research, at the University of British Columbia. I then went on to serve two terms as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Alberta. I'm currently senior adviser in the policy group of Bennett Jones. I serve on a number of corporate boards, non-profit boards, and I do other volunteer activities.
In my career, I have also had extensive experience working with the Government of Canada in my capacity as president, and with the governments of Alberta and British Columbia.
In terms of qualities and competencies, let me start with competencies. As president and vice-chancellor, I have had to develop the ability to deal with a great deal of complexity. It broadened my expertise. I've had to develop an ability to function independently, have independence of thought and approach. I have not been involved in any political activities or been a member of any political party. I like to think that I have high integrity. Certainly I have a reputation of an individual with integrity. I've developed and proved my capability of good judgment.
Finally, in my position I have had to maintain a very high degree of confidentiality. As you can imagine, I'm exposed to the files of students, faculty, and staff. I'm privy to confidential information from governments around budgets and policies, and that's something I have executed in my job.
With that I'll stop and hand it back to you, Chair. Thank you again for the opportunity to be here this morning.
Let me begin by saying that in terms of competencies to undertake this task, as you know, I've spent all my life in the business of talent—management talent assessment—and I've served on a large number of committees that select people for various awards, from an academic standpoint.
But let me speak to two that are not academic, that perhaps have the greatest bearing on this particular task. One is that as president and vice-chancellor for 10 years, I served on the honorary degree committee for the University of Alberta. The chair of the committee is the chancellor, and I'm the vice-chancellor. As you know, honorary degrees are awarded to individuals from all walks of life.
In fact, the criteria that we apply to honorary degree selection mirrors, in some ways, the task at hand. We are seeking members who have made significant contributions to their community, who have made outstanding achievements in their chosen professions. Perhaps the only thing that was missing in terms of direct comparison is knowledge of the legislative process and their ability to function in the Senate. The honorary degree committee allowed me to look at Canadians from all walks of life. That's one experience.
The other one is that I also serve on the selection for the outstanding CEO of the year in Canada. I've been on that committee for about four or five years. That again is looking at very specific competencies—individuals who are running Canadian corporations. I think these diverse experiences have given me a context within which I will be able to assess and apply the very clear merit-based criteria that we have to adhere to.
In terms of my understanding, you asked a question with government in terms of our recommendations. Our terms of reference are very clear. The criteria are very clear. We, as a committee, have spent a lot of time discussing the criteria and developing an understanding of those criteria and their application to nominations that we receive.
Thank you, Doctor, for taking the time to be here and to answer our questions. I appreciate it.
There are no surprises for me. If you have talked to colleagues or looked at Hansard, you know exactly where I'm going, so it's all up front, and nobody's shocked here as to what's going to happen.
I do want to state very sincerely that I have no qualms or questions at all with your qualifications. They are outstanding. There's just no other way to describe them. You are an outstanding Canadian, and in terms of qualifications to do just about any task that might be asked of a citizen, I can't think of anyone who's more qualified than you are. I have no problems or questions at all about that, and I am in great awe of what you have achieved.
However, on the side of competency, you know it's my view that the five of you have replaced the 35 million people who otherwise would make this decision in an election. Since that's not going to happen, it seems to me competency speaks to you actually performing the job, and the job actually happens as you are doing interviews and making evaluations about citizens as to whether or not you believe they should go on the list as potential appointees whom the PM has the right to appoint.
When you have candidates in front of you, given the importance of accountability in our system, democracy is not one-way. It's two-way. There's accountability on the part of those who hold and exercise power.
With that in mind, what qualities are you looking for in candidates, or what characteristics would you be seeking from those candidates to give yourself the assurance that they understand the importance of accountability in carrying out their functions as lawmakers? We're not just appointing committee people. These are lawmakers.
What qualities would you be looking for in order to feel satisfied that candidates were true democrats, and that they actually believed in the tenets of democracy including accountability?
I really appreciate your responding. It hasn't always been the case. All I asked for was a very simple opinion, and you gave it to me. I appreciate it.
Just to drill down a little deeper on this same road, one of the things that voters do on the doorstep when candidates come and knock.... Again, you're a replacement for that. You're there instead of the voter, so someone is knocking on your door. One of the things that people are looking for is to ensure that someone has the right priorities for them. The difficulty is that what may be a priority will be health care for one person and will be democratic reform, let's say, when they go to the next door. Those two different values would perhaps be reflected in the ballot box where one candidate says that they didn't hear enough about health, so they are not voting for them. The other one then says that they didn't hear enough about democratic reform, so they are not voting for them. Again, you replace that door-to-door evaluation by the voters.
What mechanism will you use when you're looking to find candidates who are balanced in their view and that there's the right emphasis on things that matter and should be a priority, given the difficulty with that and given that Canadians themselves have subjective opinions about what this is, and it's reflected in the vote? That all kind of happens with just the five of you.
How do you see yourself evaluating candidates in terms of trying to determine whether they have a well-rounded interest in the values that matter? Or, is it your own values that will be the priority, for example, if you believe it's health care? What mechanisms will you use to find candidates that will reflect that Canadian will?
I think there were two things at the University of Alberta, certainly as president, that I focused on. At UBC, I was vice-president, research, so I had a very different portfolio. As president, there were a couple of things that we were working very hard on.
First of all, we worked to significantly increase the access for aboriginal students. As you know, they are very under-represented in many Canadian universities. I would say the University of Alberta was one of the most successful universities in enhancing the access of aboriginal students to not only undergraduate programs, but professional programs: law, medicine, and so on.
Secondly, we were very concerned with the business of access in general for low-income students and particularly students who came from families where their parents perhaps had not gone to university. We did a lot towards raising money for scholarships, bursaries, and also providing students with support so that they were successful in university. As you can imagine, the University of Alberta is a very large institution, so that's a challenge.
The other one was for students who come from small rural communities, where there were maybe no more than 3,000 or 4,000 students. These students were not accustomed to big-city life, and so again that was an example where we helped students coming from these minority backgrounds to succeed.
Finally, one of my roles at the University of Alberta was to increase the proportion of international students to the University of Alberta, because I believed that they brought with them the opportunity for Canadians to understand cultural diversity and also to enrich the lives of our Canadian students. It was also to provide international students from a range of backgrounds the opportunity to study at one of Canada's leading universities.
I appreciate your being here with us, virtually, and certainly, as many others have said, I am very impressed with your impressive set of academic credentials and experience, much as I was with the other two candidates we had before us.
I am sure you are very dedicated to the task you have before you—somewhat before you and already somewhat behind you.
I am very firmly of the belief that the only people who should be making assessments and selecting senators should be the Canadian electorate, in elections. Of course, recognizing the constitutional situation that we have now, Alberta does have a senatorial selection process that has been used. We've held a few election processes under the Senatorial Selection Act in Alberta.
Two different Prime Ministers have chosen to appoint senators chosen through that process. Of course, the Chrétien and Martin Liberals chose to ignore the choices made by Albertans in those processes, but we have seen them appointed.
I know you can't speak as to your opinion on whether that is the appropriate way, or on choices that have been made by the government. You are speaking to the process that you are a part of. I am obviously disappointed when, on more than one occasion, we've heard the and her parliamentary secretary, when I asked this question in the House of Commons, indicate that they didn't really see merit to an election process. They felt that it should be a merit-based process and therefore somehow an election wasn't merit-based, which I find really troubling, to say the least.
This question was asked at the Senate committee. The minister was asked about Mr. Mike Shaikh, who would be the next person to be appointed should the election process that has taken place in Alberta be followed. The minister said that he was more than welcome to apply, just like anyone else, and that there was really no merit to the fact that 300,000-plus Albertans had chosen to select him to be their senator.
I wonder what your sense is, should you have to make recommendations in a future appointment where there has been a senatorial selection process, whether it be the one in Alberta or whether there is another province that chooses to set up such a process, and therefore people are in place who have been selected and chosen by the electorate in their provinces. I know you are bound by the process you are a part of and you can't comment, but you certainly can give an indication as to what you would do in terms of looking at the merit of those individuals, based on their having been chosen by the provinces they would represent in the Senate. How would you assess that as part of the merit when considering a candidate, if that were to be the case in future appointments?
While they're transitioning the mike over to committee business I'll give a few updates to the committee.
Our research has been very busy. We have four more documents coming probably tomorrow, and I assume we will let these be public as we did the other research. The first one is a follow-up to questions that came up during our discussions that we asked the researcher to follow up on. The second one is a bit of a study on day care and on child care centres in other jurisdictions. A third one is on electronic voting. Then there's a fourth paper that was done for the House of Commons by the procedures clerks who offered their services to us. We asked them what might hypothetically go before an alternate chamber if we had two chambers. You will get a paper tomorrow on that.
Over the last week I was in Sweden for another reason. The Parliament there only sat three days most of the time, they had all their votes on Tuesday or Wednesday, and the voting was by electronics. They have the same number of MPs we do or a few more. They only gave them about five seconds, so everyone was glued to their seats. They did about four votes all within 60 seconds. They push their button, and then there's a whole board of green and red lights, and the totals come up. It took a lot less time than we take. When you get maternity leave, you get 80% of your pay and get a replacement to fill in for you. The ministers are not allowed to sit in the House because they're too busy, so they get a replacement. Only 50% of their ministers are elected, but of those who are elected they get someone to replace them to do their House duties and to do their MP duties. They're elected, but I don't know who the replacement is. That would be a good question, who they get for a replacement. Someone replaces them so they can do their ministerial work. They have to go to the House to answer questions, but they're not allowed to partake in the House. All of that was very interesting.
The Chief Electoral Officer was dumped because of our scheduled stuff. He suggested May 3 or May 5 because he's available. We might want to pick one of those dates and suggest it to him just to give him some certainty.
There are two other things as I mentioned while the Speaker was here. One is that we have the main estimates sometime to do in the next couple of months for the House. The other thing is that I got a letter yesterday from the Speaker on a different topic, which you'll get shortly. He was asking in the last House when they were doing the standing orders...he had made the point, and I'm sure it's in some documentation we got earlier, that it's not clear enough what authority he has to set the times of the sitting, etc. after an emergency like we had in the House. He had suggested in our review of the upcoming standing orders that we make sure we address that. When you see that letter, and don't answer now, I'd like it if you'd come to the next meeting to answer two questions. One is whether you would like to do that separately and get it over with, or save it for the big review of standing orders. The second question is that he suggests in the letter they could propose some wording of the standing order that would work. For me that would be great, but once again it's up to the committee if you would like them to proceed that way. We could discuss all that at the next meeting once you've seen the letter from him.
When we left off last meeting we had not yet voted on the motion to recall the witnesses we had called under Standing Order 111 to address the scope of their mandate rather than their competence to carry it out.
David Christopherson referred to this lack of a vote as a big mistake as we walked out of the room, a comment which I found regrettable as I do in fact have a good deal to say on the topic and appreciate having the time to say it. It's about the longest you'll ever hear me.
It is my understanding that the minister's imminent appearance here in two days is specifically to handle the very questions my colleagues want answered. I am looking forward to that meeting.
However, there is a very important element of politics being played here by the members opposite. Before I get to the Conservative motion, I want to take a moment to refer to the New Democratic Party's position—the big mistake, if you will.
The NDP has never made any secret of their disdain for the Senate as an institution, and it is thus not in Mr. Christopherson's political interest to do anything whatsoever that would facilitate the process of replacing senators, Constitution be damned.
The Constitution Act is unambiguous. There shall be one Parliament for Canada, consisting of the Queen; an upper house style, the Senate; and the House of Commons. The NDP's position that the Senate must not exist is a purely political one not based on any form of reality. I'll get to that a little later.
Bringing back these three appointees, who we all agree are extraordinarily well-qualified people for the roles to which they have been assigned, to address their mandate serves, then, only to politicize the issue for the NDP. It creates a forum to go after the Senate rather than after those the government has charged with improving a system we are fundamentally obligated to have under the Constitution, whether we like it or not.
As it happens, I do like the Senate in principle, and believe it has a fundamental and inherent value to our process so long as it is neither time- nor term-limited, nor is it elected. While it's something I look forward to discussing at another time, that is not the subject of this particular intervention.
For Mr. Reid, he is frustrated, and frankly understandably, that the Standing Order under which we called Madame Labelle and Dean Jutras is very limited in scope. These are order in council appointments and the Standing Orders permit us to call these appointments for the purpose of evaluating their qualifications and competence to perform the duties of the post to which he or she has been appointed. The rule is there, logic suggests, to ensure that we ensure the government is making good hires. The policy decisions are not those of the appointees, but rather of the government itself. Standing Order 111 is not intended to turn appointments into pawns in larger political games.
It is worth noting, though, that in reviewing the records of this committee in the last Parliament, I can find only two motions to call anyone under Standing Order 111. One is for Richard Fujarczuk, the parliamentary law clerk, on May 28, 2013. Being called outside of the hours of a regular meeting for just 30 minutes, this is the one motion the Conservatives agreed to. While nobody on this side of the room knows how many motions were introduced and defeated, under the Conservatives' draconian use of in camera meetings, I would be hard pressed to believe no attempts were ever made.
The second reference was in June of last year, in the dying days of the 41st Parliament when Mr. Christopherson moved a motion to call the new Speaker of the Senate to test the qualifications. While I can't imagine the conversation would have been very interesting under the Standing Orders, presumably it was to make another political anti-Senate pitch rather than addressing the qualifications of the individual named. It could have only gone something like this:
“Senator, are you a senator?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, then, by gosh, you meet the qualification standard.”
Regardless, the government of the day voted down the motion without any public debate and without the record of the Standing Order at this committee. The most recent Parliament was frankly abysmal.
I don't personally believe in killing motions without considering them. Indeed, having 10 days off the Hill in the real world to think about it has given me plenty of opportunity to ponder it and put my thoughts down in writing. We have shocked our friends across this room on several occasions already by doing things like listening and accepting, or at least evading motions and ideas. We agreed to call the minister, something that our predecessor government would never have done based on an opposition motion. It had to be their own idea to be a good idea.
Members on this side will certainly not always agree with our friends on the other side of this small room, nor will we always disagree. For many of us, our instinct is to try to agree more than we disagree. I, at least, believe that a small part of making this place more family-friendly is treating our colleagues and their ideas with respect, and debating them on their merits, not their colours.
I believe in co-operation and coming to the best results based on the best ideas with the best information. Sometimes, though, we will simply not agree. On Mr. Reid's motion, this is unfortunately one of those times. It does not mean that sunny ways have clouded in. It simply means I don't agree with the motion, and so I want to debate the motion on its merits. I listened carefully to Mr. Reid's 1,200-odd second commentary on why he felt this motion was important. My point is not to suggest that he does not believe what he said, I believe he truly does, notwithstanding anything that happened in the 41st Parliament.
The Conservatives' position on the Senate has not always been crystal clear. It was not to appoint any senators until the Senate withers and dies by pure attrition. Or, it was to have what they call a triple-E Senate, for equal, elected, and effective. Or it was to appoint elected senators, at least until they stopped liking the results of the elections. Or it really was to not have senators or a Senate. Or, it was to appoint partisan hacks in a hurry when the government was suddenly in danger of falling, and then deal with the consequences, of which there have been many, and not all of them have made the news.
I am sure that all of my hon. colleagues in this room are careful to only claim per diems when they are eligible to do so, for example, and that nobody here claims for lunch on sitting Tuesdays or Thursdays in recognition of the wide and delicious assortment of sandwiches we have here.
As a staffer attending the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament's first meeting of the second session of the 41st Parliament, I was surprised to hear one of these highly qualified Conservative senators from the class of 2008 state on the routine motion to order lunch, much like ours is moved, and I will quote directly from Hansard:
Please don't move it yet.
With the AG moving in on us, if you and I had lunch, we could not claim a per diem for today.
The reason not to claim a per diem was because there was a looming audit by the Auditor General, not because it is the right thing to do.
Forgive me for thinking that the Conservatives do not have a great deal of credibility on any question relating to Senate appointments. Liberals, too, have not batted a thousand on Senate appointments. There is no perfection in the system as it has existed.
The system before us, the reason that Monsieur Jutras and Madame Labelle are here, is intended to begin the difficult task of fixing several problems that have cropped up in the Senate's past within the confines of the Constitution, a structure for which I have the utmost respect.
These boundaries were explained to us in black and white only a year ago by the Supreme Court, in a reference that we are no doubt all familiar with. This reads, in part:
The Senate is one of Canada’s foundational political institutions. It lies at the heart of the agreements that gave birth to the Canadian federation.
The problems are simple. The system of the prime minister picking a senator out of the clear blue sky, or red sky, depending on the flavour of the government of the day—orange skies never seem to be in the forecast—is not a particularly good system. We get some phenomenal senators, and we get some special cases. The terror of having any more senators claiming expenses to which they were not entitled or otherwise causing embarrassment to the last meant that senators simply stopped being appointed, so back to the attrition plan they went.
The that we have, seeing that the Senate's value exists only as an independent and non-partisan body, ejected Liberal senators from the Liberal caucus, telling them to get on with the independence on which the relevance of their jobs depends. I can attest to the effectiveness of this on a personal level. In spite of my years on the Hill, I barely know the names of the senators, have met few of them, and couldn't tell you what province or party most of them are from without doing a bit of research. It is a separation that I value.
However, this leads us to several structural problems. The Senate is a legislative body much like this one. I serve for the moment on two committees, as do most of my colleagues here, as well as on the executive of two sub-caucuses and an interparliamentary group.
The Senate is much the same. The sheer volume of work to do requires senators. The last senator standing would be a very busy person indeed, serving on every standing committee, having impressive monologues on every bill brought forward, getting deep into philosophical discussions with the bathroom mirror and so forth, except for the lack of any quorum, the lack of anyone to second bills, and a Speaker to even recognize them.
It is simply a matter of necessity to have senators within the confines of the Constitution as it exists. While the NDP wants to abolish the Senate, the Supreme Court was clear that the abolition of the Senate requires the unanimous consent of the Senate, the House of Commons, and the legislative assemblies of all Canadian provinces. The Conservatives' occasional wish for an elected Senate too requires constitutional amendments. Again, I cite the Supreme Court reference, which reads:
The implementation of consultative elections and senatorial term limits requires consent of the Senate, the House of Commons, and the legislative assemblies of at least seven provinces representing, in the aggregate, half of the population of all the provinces.
Even term limits crash into the constitutional amendment brick wall. A change in the duration of senatorial terms would amend the Constitution of Canada by requiring modifications to the text of section 29 of the Constitution Act, 1867.
In the face of all of these constitutional requirements, the Conservative government was faced with total paralysis, choosing instead to leave seats vacant, close their eyes, stick out their collective tongues, and block their ears, shouting “nah, nah, nah”, rather than looking for plausible, realistic, and constitutional solutions.
I got my first start in politics at a rather young age, when the previous federal and provincial leaders thought that reopening the Constitution was a good idea. I don't think it is a great stretch to say that the constitutional wrangling of the 1990s did our national unity a whole lot of good. I don't wish for the reopening of the Constitution on anyone. It is a particularly heinous kind of curse, and is not something that should ever be taken lightly.
We must therefore work within the confines of the Constitution. It requires us to have a Senate. It requires senators to be appointed by Her Majesty's representative here in Canada on the advice of our . It is, however, silent on where the Prime Minister takes his advice on the matter. That is an issue the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, struck by order in council and subject to Standing Order 111, seeks to resolve.
The is still responsible for the final choice, much as with Supreme Court justices. But having a highly qualified advisory panel offer educated suggestions without a partisan lens can only serve to improve the quality of our sober second thinkers. This is different from electing senators, as this Supreme Court ruling makes clear:
Introducing a process of consultative elections for the nomination of Senators would change our Constitution’s architecture, by endowing Senators with a popular mandate which is inconsistent with the Senate’s fundamental nature and role as a complementary legislative chamber of sober second thought.
Sober second thought, in my mind, does not refer to the lack of imbibed alcohol. If that was a qualification, we would have our second debating chamber made up of me and a handful of other MPs who prefer not to drink. No, sober second thought refers to the lack of private or personal interest for the legislator. A senator who needs to please a political party or think about his re-election or what he will do in a post-Senate career loses that independence from personal interest. Aan elected or term-limited senator cannot meet the intent of sober second thought.
Other reforms, such as exploring whether senators should be allowed to continue working as anything other than senators, potentially clouding the sobriety of their independence, are plausible but outside of the scope of this particular debate.
If we get into the weeds with the members of the advisory board about who they do or do not consider an acceptable senator, we prejudice the very process they are charged with following. If we tell senator applicants what to do in their CVs to appeal to particular board members, we compromise the very independence of the advice.
They have their own mandate, given to them by the government, which gives clear instructions. Beyond that, it is their judgment, and we should not invite subjective judgment into their debates, or air their internal deliberations for the public to see. As with any hiring process, those not selected deserve the respect of not having their rejection on the public record.
All advisory board members will have to draw their own conclusions and do their own thinking as they consider who to suggest as our next senators to the . The Prime Minister will then have to fulfill his constitutionally mandated role of making the final decision.
Standing Order 111 exists for a reason. When we call an order in council appointment here, it is to discuss whether the person is qualified and competent to exercise the duties to which he or she has been named. If we wish to inquire more deeply into those issues, we can call a minister. And we have done exactly that. She will be here in just two days. I, for one, will be voting no on Mr. Reid's motion to recall these members.
My intervention last time, so I'm told by Mr. Graham, was 1,200 seconds long; I had to look that up. That's 20 minutes. But for those who are interested it's also 1.2 million milliseconds and 1.2 billion nanoseconds. So I'll just respond briefly to this. I am hoping we'll have a chance to have a vote today.
A couple of things are factually wrong in what Mr. Graham said, and I thought I'd draw his attention to a bit of that. Elections are not forbidden in the reference ruling the Supreme Court made two years ago. I invite him to reread it. He'll see that federal enabling legislation is ruled as being ultra vires, outside the federal government's powers.
There was nothing indicating that Alberta's Senatorial Selection Act, for example, is unconstitutional. Nor are the choices made under that act such as that of Mike Shaikh, to whom my colleague was referring, a senator-in-waiting from Alberta, who will, unless Prime Minister Trudeau doesn't care about democracy, be appointed to the post to which he was elected in an advisory election. There's nothing unconstitutional about that.
The Alberta government still has on its website the fact that Mike Shaikh is a senator-in-waiting. We have several senators sitting in the Senate right now who were elected through that process. Senate elections are entirely constitutional as long as they're done the right way. The right way has been indicated through the process adopted by Alberta and I hope will be adopted by the provinces in time, one that could indeed be the system by which Canada's Senate becomes democratized in every province and ceases to be a 19th century institution.
I should mention as well that if one rereads the Confederation debates... I invite Mr. Graham and anybody else to do so. They are available on a website to which I've contributed called PrimaryDocuments.ca. You can take a look at the Confederation debates and you'll discover that many of the Fathers of Confederation were advocates of an elected Senate. The reason the Senate became an appointed body, historically speaking, is that it was a way of providing jobs to the people who were in the legislative council of the Province of Canada who otherwise would have opposed.... In other words they were bribed by Senate seats. That's a matter of historical record that was brought up several times in the course of the first Parliament in the new Dominion of Canada. To get the record straight the members debated as to whether or not Sir John A. had handed out the bribes to the former legislative councillors as per his secret agreement with the members of the other party in the pre-Confederation Parliament of the Province of Canada.
Mr. Graham is suggesting here that if we're going to get the minister in on Thursday every question we have will be resolved, therefore we don't need to bring back the members of the advisory committee to answer substantive questions about what they're doing and how they're conducting their affairs. I'll just say several things.
One is that these are people who have demonstrated discretion. I think we've all agreed that they are all very discreet people. They know when they have to stop answering a question. Just as when we bring ministers here they have to know this is the point at which it's a cabinet confidentiality and they can't go beyond that. We trust in their competence. I don't think Mr. Graham would dispute their competence, their ability to know when they need to refrain from answering some aspect of a question that would involve a violation of one of the secrets they are entrusted with. I have no fear there and I don't think he needs to have any fear either.
The other problem we've got is that the minister is going to come here and there's every chance that she's going to say she's not privy to some of this information. For example, the question I asked today about how many organizations have you been in touch with and was it the three permanent national members of the committee or was it the provincial members who contacted these individuals. I think this is quite germane to the issue of whether or not these are individuals or organizations that represent—what kind of interests do they represent? I don't think the minister would know that. Maybe she will but there's a great chance she won't, after all this is supposedly an independent advisory board.
If we take the process as actually working the way that it's said to work, then presumably she wouldn't. We have questions like this that she can't answer. A series of questions will simply go unanswered, and look, it becomes hard to believe after we've seen that every time I try to raise a substantial question, it gets shut down.
I do thank you, by the way, Mr. Chair. I thought you handled it right this time. You gave the witness the choice of answering, as opposed to saying that she couldn't do so. I've never approved of that technique whenever a chair does it.
But on the constant points of order—you can't ask this question, you can't ask that question—if we accept that the standing order is the reason why, then the solution is to bring them back under a different standing order, where we can seek answers to these questions and actually get substantive responses.
My expectation is that on Thursday we will be disappointed, simply because either time will run out.... The minister, after all, has to answer questions on this issue and on a number of other issues. She has one hour to do so. We'll be dealing with, for example, the issue of legislative reform in regard to electoral reform and whether we change our voting system, how, and what her system is. There won't be much time to deal with this, unless we bring her back.
I'll just say now that in the event that it turns out she can't deal with these questions and this is defeated today, I'll be bringing back a version of this same motion to accomplish the goal in light of the new facts of having not received full answers from the minister, not because of ill will but because of time constraints and a lack of knowledge of things to which she is simply not privy. Likewise, if we find that we're unable to probe deeply enough into the Senate and that process with the minister because we're dealing with the other issue that's on her plate, then I'll be asking for her to come back as well.
Having said that, I'll stop now. We could go either to a vote or to a different person, depending on what the speakers list looks like.