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.
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, cannot entertain points of order nor participate in debate.
We can now proceed to the election of the chair.
Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), the chair must be a member of the government party. I am ready to receive motions for the chair.
Honourable members, thank you for placing your confidence in me. I am pleased to serve as your committee chair.
Before we get started, I'd like to take a moment to thank the honourable member Vance Badawey for the outstanding job he did chairing this committee during the 43rd Parliament. I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to the five returning members of the committee for their outstanding work during the 42nd and 43rd parliaments. Well done.
Colleagues, before we move on to some housekeeping notes that I have to read, if you're in agreement, I'd like to ask the clerk to proceed with the election of the vice-chairs. Do I have agreement?
Honourable members, welcome to the first meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
Today’s meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House Order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.
Regarding the speaking list, the committee clerk and I will do the best we can to maintain a consolidated order of speaking for all members, whether participating virtually or in person.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind all participants to this meeting that screenshots or taking photos of your screen is not permitted.
The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website.
Given the ongoing pandemic and in light of the recommendations from public health authorities as well as the directive of the Board of Internal Economy on October 19, 2021, to remain healthy and safe, the following is recommended for all those attending the meeting in person.
Anyone with symptoms should participate by Zoom and not attend the meeting in person.
Everyone must maintain a two-metre physical distance, whether seated or standing.
Everyone must wear a non-medical mask when circulating in the room. It is recommended in the strongest possible terms that members wear their masks at all times, including when seated. Non-medical masks, which provide better clarity over cloth masks, are available in the room.
Everyone present must maintain proper hand hygiene by using the hand sanitizer at the room entrance. Committee rooms are cleaned before and after each meeting. To maintain this, everyone is encouraged to clean surfaces such as the desk, chair, and microphone with the provided disinfectant wipes when vacating or taking a seat.
As the chair, I will be enforcing these measures for the duration of the meeting, and I thank members in advance for their co-operation.
I would now suggest as the next order of business that the committee now proceed to considering our routine motions.
Further to the motion entitled Analyst Services, I move the following:
That the committee retain, as needed and at the discretion of the Chair, the services of one or more—
Sorry, this is just a point of clarification before I continue. Is there appetite amongst the committee members for me to go through all the clauses and we take the vote at the end, or do we want to do a vote after each item I read out?
That the committee retain, as needed and at the discretion of the Chair, the services of one or more analysts from the Library of Parliament to assist it in its work.
That the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be established and be composed of five members; the Chair, one member from each recognized party; and that the subcommittee work in a spirit of collaboration.
That the Chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and to have that evidence published when a quorum is not present, provided that at least four members are present, including two members of the opposition parties and two members of the government party, but when travelling outside the Parliamentary Precinct, that the meeting begin after 15 minutes, regardless of members present.
That witnesses be given five minutes for their opening statement; that whenever possible, witnesses provide the committee with their opening statement 72 hours in advance; that at the discretion of the Chair, during the questioning of witnesses, there be allocated six minutes for the first questioner of each party as follows for the first round:
New Democratic Party
For the second and subsequent rounds, the order and time for questioning be as follows:
Conservative Party, five minutes
Liberal Party, five minutes
Bloc Québécois, two and a half minutes
New Democratic Party, two and a half minutes
Conservative Party, five minutes
Liberal Party, five minutes.
That only the clerk of the committee be authorized to distribute documents to members of the committee provided the documents are in both official languages, and that the witnesses be advised accordingly.
That the clerk of the committee, at the discretion of the Chair, be authorized to make the necessary arrangements to provide working meals for the committee and its subcommittees.
That, if requested, reasonable travel, accommodation and living expenses be reimbursed to witnesses not exceeding two representatives per organization; and that in exceptional circumstances, payment for more representatives be made at the discretion of the Chair.
That, unless otherwise ordered, each committee member be allowed to be accompanied by one staff member at in camera meetings and that one additional person from each House officer’s office be allowed to be present.
That one copy of the transcript of each in camera meeting be kept in the committee clerk’s office for consultation by members of the committee or by their staff; and that the analysts assigned to the committee also have access to the in camera transcripts.
That a 48-hour notice, interpreted as two nights, be required for any substantive motion to be moved in committee, unless the substantive motion relates directly to business then under consideration, provided that: (a) the notice be filed with the clerk of the committee no later than 4:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday; (b) the motion be distributed to Members and the offices of the whips of each recognized party in both official languages by the clerk on the same day the said notice was transmitted if it was received no later than the deadline hour; (c) notices received after the deadline hour or on non-business days be deemed to have been received during the next business day; and that when the committee is holding meetings outside the Parliamentary Precinct, no substantive motion may be moved.
That in relation to orders of reference from the House respecting Bills,
(a) The clerk of the committee shall, upon the committee receiving such an order of reference, write to each member who is not a member of a caucus represented on the committee to invite those members to file with the clerk of the committee, in both official languages, any amendments to the bill, which is the subject of the said Order, which they would suggest that the committee consider;
(b) Suggested amendments filed, pursuant to paragraph (a), at least 48 hours prior to the start of clause-by-clause consideration of the bill to which the amendments relate shall be deemed to be proposed during the said consideration, provided that the committee may, by motion, vary this deadline in respect of a given bill; and
(c) During the clause-by-clause consideration of a bill, the Chair shall allow a member who filed suggested amendments, pursuant to paragraph (a), an opportunity to make brief representations in support of them.
That the clerk inform each witness who is to appear before the committee that the House administration support team must conduct technical tests to check the connectivity and the equipment used to ensure the best possible sound quality; and that the Chair advise the committee, at the start of each meeting, of any witness who did not perform the required technical tests.
That all documents submitted for committee business that do not come from a federal department, members’ offices, or that have not been translated by the Translation Bureau be sent for prior linguistic review by the Translation Bureau before being distributed to members.
Regarding the list of routine motions that Ms. Koutrakis read out, I think those are the ones on which there is general agreement. I have some additions that I'd like to bring forward for discussion. I wonder if we should vote on the first set and then have that discussion separately or whether you'd like me to bring those motions forward at this point.
The first routine motion I'd like to bring forward for consideration is one that I believe we passed in the last Parliament. It relates to televised appearances of ministers. The wording of the motion is very simple:
That whenever a Minister appears before the Committee, every effort be made to ensure that the meeting is televised.
Mr. Chair, I have one more motion here. This relates to in camera meetings, and again, it is similar to a motion that was adopted in the last Parliament. It reads:
That the committee may meet in camera only for the following purposes:
(a) to consider a draft report;
(b) to attend briefings concerning national security;
(c) to consider lists of witnesses;
(d) for any other reason, with the unanimous consent of the committee;
That all votes taken in camera, with the exception of votes regarding the consideration of draft reports, be recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings, including how each member voted when recorded votes are requested.
Like last time when this was presented, I can't support this. There's a reason we go in camera for certain items. That's to protect employees, human resources, legal situations, legal discussions and proprietary situations of a lot of different companies that give testimony. It's with respect to that, as well as other situations, such as a negotiation between a union and a company that might come up and we might have to discuss it as a committee.
By the way, I'm not a fan of in camera meetings and I like to see everything out in the open, but it's not up to me in situations such as that. It's with all due respect to those witnesses who come, give testimony, and actually trust that the process won't disclose a lot of what they don't want to disclose in terms of, as I mentioned earlier, those things that should be held in confidence.
That said, in camera meetings are appropriate. They should only be taking place when those things are being infringed upon, such as HR negotiations or legal.
I think Mr. Bachrach, as a former mayor, will be fully aware of that in terms of what municipal acts in different provinces entail, and again, it's with all due respect to those people we deal with.
Unfortunately, Taylor, I won't be able to support this.
Mr. Chair, through you to Mr. Badawey, I appreciate what he's saying. I believe item (d) accommodates the type of situation that he has brought up. If we're in a situation as a committee where there is some sort of sensitive topic that deserves a confidential treatment, the committee can choose to go in camera by unanimous consent. The members of the committee can use their discretion in terms of the public interest, maximizing transparency.
What we don't want to see is in camera meetings used to discuss matters that may be difficult for some members to talk about in the public realm but are in the public interest to have the public see our discussions and hear our questioning, and so on.
I think these clauses accommodate the kind of situation that Mr. Badawey has indicated. Certainly coming from local government in British Columbia I know there are very strict provisions for the circumstances in which local governments can go in camera. We should have similar parameters for our committee so that those in camera meetings aren't misused.
I appreciate those comments. However, there are two points I want to make. One is that the key words are “unanimous consent”, and not all the time do we have the luxury of gaining unanimous consent.
The second point goes to your point about item (d). If in fact item (d) covers everything, there's really no need to pass this motion. It's somewhat redundant. Again, unfortunately, Taylor, I just can't support this.
Mr. Chair, just very briefly, I appreciate that we're of two minds about this and certainly respect the views that my colleagues have brought forward. Perhaps you or the clerk could clarify how the decision to go in camera on a topic would be made.
Mr. Iacono has suggested that it be done on a case-by-case basis, and I have no problem with that. It's more a question of, at whose discretion does the committee go in camera?
Mr. Clerk, correct me if I'm wrong, but going to Mr. Bachrach's motion, the appropriate part of the motion is unanimous consent in terms of a motion coming forward. If a case-by-case basis mechanism were to be followed, would it not just take unanimous consent by the committee to, therefore, go to the theme of what Mr. Bachrach is asking for in his motion?
Essentially, the committee would be permitted to go in camera to consider a draft report, attend briefings concerning national security, consider lists of witnesses and for any other reason with the unanimous consent of the members of the committee.
It allows us to go in camera for any reason, as long as we all agree that it warrants going in camera. What it prevents is the use of in camera to discuss things that may be publicly sensitive, but are not issues that, for legal or other reasons, should be held held in camera.
In essence, the clerk would be in a situation where he would have to speak to this. It would, perhaps, be seen as him either defending it or moving in favour of it.
We're deferring more to Mr. Bachrach to try to speak to how exactly the committee would proceed with voting if we were to find ourselves in that situation. This is a question that's been posed by our colleague Mr. Barsalou-Duval.
I'm sorry for the confusion. I believe the question was about what happens with questions that are taken while you're in camera under the provisions of this motion. That is very tricky, because we'd be recording names and whatnot, which is counter to how we do things in camera.
However, if you're talking about a regular meeting without this motion, if one were to go in camera, we'd simply require a motion. It's a dilatory motion, so you can move it off the floor at any time and you just take a vote. There's no debate; there's a vote right away on whether to go in camera.
Conversely, the chair can also call for a meeting to begin in camera. If the committee does not agree to that, the very first thing the committee would do at the beginning of that in camera meeting is move to go public. There would be no debate; you'd take a vote and go public, if that was the will of the committee.
Mr. Chair, I was going to bring forward a third one regarding witness allocation. This is a motion that other committees have passed, but I thought maybe I would just speak to the spirit and see if we can get general agreement from you and from the committee.
I believe it was our practice in the last Parliament when we had a two-hour witness panel that each party would have a witness from their submitted lists appear so that we had a diversity of witnesses on each panel. Other committees have chosen to codify that with a routine motion.
I'm not sure that's necessary, but perhaps, Mr. Chair, you and Mr. Clerk could indicate whether that would be your intent and if we could have that as a practice. I think that would suffice, and I would not bring forward a formal motion.
Yes, as a former chair, I would say that while it is great to have diversity of thought—and when witnesses are submitted there's a number of them, depending on the representation—you can't always schedule the witnesses when you want to schedule them, because they are not available.
I would say that if we took the intent that we would have diversity of thought and a mix of the witnesses, that would be a great way to proceed, but I wouldn't fall on that sword if there are scheduling issues.
Mr. Bachrach, I would just add my comments on this.
As chair, I will do my very best to ensure that all members have their voices heard, and that's with regard to the witnesses we invite to appear before this committee, but by putting ourselves in a situation where, as Ms. Gladu pointed out, in some cases it's very difficult to get the witnesses we want, we kind of pigeonhole ourselves into that situation. As chair, I'm going to make every effort with the clerk to ensure there is representation from all parties when we have witnesses appear.